Ben Brooks (Flickr)
Ben Brooks (Flickr)

May was another impressive month for Sound Transit ridership, with the latest ridership report showing weekday Link ridership at 65,000 daily boardings, up 83% over May 2015 (36k), and up even 8% over April 2016 (60k). Link set records for total boardings, at 1.8m, and will likely continue to set records through October, when seasonal patterns usually bring a slight drop-off.

Link now has 12% more monthly boardings (1.8m) than all ST Express routes combined (1.6m). ST Express managed to hang on for another month in terms of average weekday boardings, besting Link by 1%, with 66k compared to Link’s 65k

Sounder continued its impressive growth, up 17% over May 2015 with 16,500 daily boardings. With event service included, Sounder ridership was up 22% over May 2015.

Tacoma Link continued its slow decline, losing 5% of total boardings compared to last May (from 86k to 81k), and down 4% in weekday boardings (from 3,600 to 3,400).

June may have a hard time topping these growth records, as UW ended its spring quarter on June 19. Link’s seasonal summer ridership surge may counteract UW’s summer break to keep ridership growing at this record pace, but we’ll have to see.

Since the opening of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station, Link has gotten several micro improvements. First, the schedules were reset to show a more accurate 6 minutes from Westlake-UW Station and 44 minutes SeaTac Airport Station-UW Station. Second, Sound Transit recently announced that all six peak-only trains would be three cars. Third, Sound Transit has recently made 3-car trains the weekend norm. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the all-day 3-car train treatment on other days, such as the entire Labor Day/Bumbershoot weekend. But the real test will come on Friday, September 30, with a UW-Stanford football game overlapping with the Mariners’ third-to-last game of the season.

Will September 30 be Link’s first 100,000 rider day, and can the agency handle it with its limited fleet? File under #goodproblems.

91 Replies to “Sound Transit May Ridership: Link Up 82%, Sounder Up 17%”

  1. I’d be interested in an in-depth on Tacoma Link’s decline. With PT restoring connecting service, and general economic growth (assuming that extends to Tacoma), I’d expect it to at least be stable. Is it all just because of the dumb extra station they put in? Whatever the cause, it seems to have been predictable, because this year, while down on last year, is actually above their target.

    Finally, I note that Link farebox has shot up from 30% to 50%. Rail systems scale up beautifully, and we’re now getting into the happy place on that scaling function.

    1. The farebox recovery with the surge of ridership I would say was expected and does show grade separated rail within the city limits is typically quite a good investment. I would expect it to increase once Northgate comes online.

      1. I predict that even the fake BRT fans won’t argue that we should have run buses, or autonomous cars, through the Westlake-Northgate tubes.

    2. Farebox recovery for operating grade-separated light rail under a city should be this high! BART even gets 70 percent! We pay lots of capital dollars to get lower operating costs!

      In looking at ST reports over time, the farebox recovery monthly data points haven’t made much sense in the past. With growing Link ridership, the ratio did not change much in 2014 and 2015. There have also been spikes and dips in some months. Let’s monitor this over several months before making a more definitive conclusion!

    3. The jump in Farebox Recovery is awesome. I’m wondering what the current cost/boarding is as well.

      This is something we’ve talked about for a long time, but it’s great to see it happening. Network effect, engage.

      Also: This is directly counter to what the fake BRT enthusiasts have been saying. If you havent yet, everyone who cares about this subject should force themselves to list to the interview with Mark Ahlers at the 2:00 minute mark.

      You WILL cringe. See if you can count how many times he cherry picks, uses expamples that are mysteriously not current, or says something that is flat out not true. Pretensinf to care about transit has a long history in anti-transit messages, but this guy takes the cake.

      1. In one breath, the guest calls for BRT instead of rail. In another, he criticizes ST’s use of light rail instead of heavy rail because a heavy-rail train can carry more passengers. Epic self-contradiction.

      2. I take him at his word that he likes transit, uses it, and likes to compare it in different cities. The problem is that he views it through his ideology and assumptions and that leads to odd conclusions. He treats Seatttle, Vancover BC, SLC, San Diego, and Bogota as if they’re all exactly the same, with the same people and attitudes, the same kinds of destinations, the same spaces between the destinations, the same land uses, the same political environment and regulations, the same goals for its network, the same highways and the same space on their highways, etc — so their costs should be exactly the same.

        Most of Link’s cost is due to tunnels and elevated segments so it’s higher quality than the surface light rails before it. Yes, the current network could have been heavy rail, but the decisions to upgrade to tunnels and elevated happened piecemeal neightborhood by neighborhood as the public grew to want grade separation (and its cost!), so it ended up much different than ST intended. You also have to compare operating costs at a similar level of maturity: does it reach the same percentage of major destinations as the other cities, and are the ones it intends to serve built yet? In Vancouver and Bogota the government wanted an effective system, the public wanted them to do it, there were no city/local barriers because the government had the authority to just build what it wants, so they just did it. Here ST has to fight with the cities because light rail is not a pre-permitted land use (it’s not s single-family house or strip mall with the proper 30′ setback) so it takes time to negotiate the permits. Light rail is presumed to be a negative use so ST must pay for “environmental mitigation” (P&Rs, station art, etc). Which raises the question, do the cities want Link or don’t they? If they do, why are they making it so hard to site the line and stations?

        Then there’s the high-ridership markets it serves or doesn’t serve. We talked about Denver recently, how it runs along freeways to the suburbs so it misses the inner-city transit markets. Portland has a variation that misses southeast Portland. It’s cheap because it runs along highways, but does it serve most of the transit markets? Aren’t transit markets the reason to build it in the first place?

        Light rail has less capacity than heavy rail: but, do we need heavy rail’s capacity? Where? Probably not along Link’s entire length. And BRT has even less capacity, but you’re knocking light rail for having low capacity? (Yes, a good BRT can carry a lot of people but you still can’t couple the buses.)

        Then there’s the political mandates. ST’s mandate was Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond. Ahlers focuses on Lynnwood where he lives. Where is Vancouver’s Lynnwood? Past the end of the line, oh.

        He complains that people hate transferring. I guess that’s referring to a bus like Metro’s 257 that goes from downtown to Kingsgate P&R and then into residential areas. But the one-seat rides Link takes away it giveth back in abundance. Rainier Valley to SeaTac, Rainier Valley to Greenlake, Lynnwood to SeaTac (Ahler’s future trip!), Bellevue to the stadiums, etc. And if you add a single train-to-train transfer (much more convenient than train-to-bus or bus-to-bus), it doubles the possibilities, and in ST3 will allow dozens of trip pairs. But you have to live near a station to avoid ever taking a bus, and that’s bad because it forces people into higher density against their will. And bus 257 is efficient compared to that? Didn’t we want to save money?

        He complains Link to Lynnwood will be slower than the existing buses. That’s blatantly false and misleading. Link has a constant travel time, while ST Express varies widely depending on the time of day due to traffic. So Link’s time to Lynnwood and Everett will be in the middle of ST Express’s: slower than Sunday morning but faster than 5pm weekdays. And what is Link but a new right of way, comparable to two new freeway lanes? Those freeway lanes would cost about the same, and BRT would need them. You want cheap buses to Lynnwood? That’s what ST already has! And CT too! But people want more! They want a significantly higher level of service! You can’t just pack more BRT buses on the existing I-5 lanes and get that. Plus traffic will degrade over time, and in 10-20 years ST Express’s travel time will be significantly worse. Right when Link opens! Isn’t that convenient? But Ahler wants to cancel Link and beef up ST Express or build heavy rail. Oops, not heavy rail because that would be unacceptably expensive.

      3. A better criticism of Sound Transit would go like this. In the early 1990s the Puget Sound cities and counties should have agreed, “We want a transit system like Germany is building in its cities.” So they create Sound Transit, and it hires a transit expert to design a network connecting the activity centers. The expert, who has the mysterious initials J.W., designs a tight inner network in Seattle (several lines and 5+-minute frequency), a medium network to bring in Bellevue/Redmond, Lynnwood, and Burien/Tukwila/Renton and Kent, and a loose outer network to bring in Tacoma, Everett, Issaquah, etc. By “three networks” I don’t necessarily mean separate networks or different modes, but rather the density of the network in these areas. The transit expert would say that we need to integrate regional+local transit in this vision so that people would have certainty of what kind of service to expect in every location: how long would it take to get to X, how frequently, and how many transfers. So all the local transit agencies and cities would get involved, and there would be city transit master plans integrated into the regional one. So somebody in Seattle going from Columbia City to Lake City would have a certain one- or two-seat ride every 5 minutes, via underground train and/or RapidRide-like buses with at least 80% transit lanes. Somebody in Kent East Hill would have 15-minute service full time to Kent and Renton transfering to trunk lines to Seattle and Bellevue, and can easily get to Southcenter for shopping. All this would be laid out up front, and while the local routes would be subject to update there would be substantially equivalent service. ST would divide this up into four phases, with each phase investing in both regional and local service starting from the center, and the first phase would have interim regional service fo the areas outside the first phase. The first phase would be voted on in 1995, the second in 2005, and every five years thereafter until it’s done. Or if the public is motivated enough to “do it all now”, it could combine all the remaining phases into one vote. The plan would need periodic updates; e.g., when unexpected growth appears in one area, or where ridership is higher than expected in another area. Then you’d have a system like Germany or Scandinavia, with maximum transit mode share and maximum people eschewing cars.

        But it would go far beyond what Sound Transit is currently authorized to do. It would require enlightened city governments that are serious about transit and the environment and willing to inconvenience cars, and willing to let Seattle get the lion’s share of the investment. It would require state legislators who also value transit and want a fully effective solution like Europe, and won’t let taxes and faux libertarian rhetroric and suburban privilege and suburban parochialism stand in the way. And it would need to not get sidetracked into BRT beyond its capabilities in order to save pennies but not really solve the problem. We need to solve it for once and for all now.

      4. Good comments Mike, what blows me away is these guys wading in to the capacity conversation and then getting it wrong.

        Link Trains are 2x as long as traditional subway cars and will be running at 3 minute headways thhrough the central city. 15k-18k/hour/direction is medium capacity. I’ve taken to calling our system “Light Metro”, not “Light Rail.”

        The cost comparison to at-grade systems is complete garbage – everyone on here understands why.

        I have a hard time swallowing that this guys legitimately likes transit – he makes too many clever cherry picking moves. Ignoring U-Link and its cost/boarding implications is a whopper.

        What I found particularly humerous was how he talked about a bus system that took TONS of street space away from cars and failed to mention that feature to his conservative host.

        I’m sure the Todd Herman would TOTALLY support taking car lanes to make transit work better.

      5. “I have a hard time swallowing that this guys legitimately likes transit”

        Why does he ride it so much then? Why is he working for this campaign either as a volunteer or for less money than he could get elsewhere? Does he have an obsessive hatred for transit and want to stamp it out, so much that he spends years riding it and studying it in several cities? Or does he just think he wants good transit and has a distorted idea of what good transit is?

      6. I agree with your second post, Mike (summarizing the problem with Sound Transit). In general, that has been the problem. I’m not sure if your solution would be ideal — but it would certainly be better than what Sound Transit has proposed.

        The big problem with Sound Transit is that they identified a particular strategy, without ever questioning its value. The spine, by most accounts, is ridiculous. It will provide very little value for the money. But it was the stated goal, all along. If ST3 passes, then Sound Transit, and everyone involved, will celebrate a major accomplishment. This is, by many counts — by their own literature — what they wanted to do.

        But that shouldn’t be their goal. Their goal should be to improve transit in the most cost effective way possible. There are many ways to measure this. Some of them tend to favor suburban riders. But even in the suburbs, with metrics that tend to favor them, it fails miserably. Count the total amount of time saved (minutes saved per rider multiplied by the number of riders) and divide that by the amount spent. It is absolutely terrible for areas like Everett, Tacoma, Federal Way and Issaquah. Of course it is. In every city where similar work has been done it has been a terrible value.

        Sound Transit doesn’t dispute that. They aren’t trying to win the war, they are simply trying to win a battle (the battle of the spine). They tell us this is crucial for transit mobility, but offer no facts to support their case.

        What is true of the spine is true in general. They have focused on projects — and modes — simply because they want them there. No one seems to be looking at the big picture. No one seems to be asking the tough questions, the obvious question, like

        Is this really the best thing we can do to improve transit mobility for this much money?

        The answer is obviously no. Not within each subarea. Not even within each neighborhood. That is the part that I find appalling. This really has nothing to do with politics, unless you think it is easier, politically, to sell something that is less effective for the very people it purports to serve, let alone the greater population that will pay for it.

        Viewed in this light, lots of things start making sense. For example, the lack of a station at NE 130th. Yes, if ST3 passes, it will be built, years and years after the trains run right by that very spot. Folks fought hard for it. They are still fighting for it — a simple stop that just about anyone with any sense or knowledge of transit systems would say is mandatory. I’ve often wondered why it wasn’t part of the original plan. My only conclusion is: They didn’t care. It was never one of their stated goals. Completing the spine was (and is).

        That is, fundamentally, screwed up. You don’t base your system on a strategy — you base it on an overall goal. Sound Transit has often failed in meeting that goal in small ways (lack of stations as well as poor placement) but ST3 would be a colossal failure in that regard, which is why I find their process so frustrating.

      7. As for capacity, it is complicated. I’ve yet to read a thorough discussion of the issue. In part because it is so complicated. Like most of transit, there is no general rule. The short answer is: it depends. That is why the rail fetishists — the folks that think rail to Issaquah, Tacoma, Everett or even West Seattle — are just as bad as the bus fetishists (like John Niles). It really depends on where you are, and what type of system you are ultimately going to build.

        It’s not too hard to think through the fundamentals. A train carries way more people. But a bus has much better headways. If the bus doesn’t stop, then it performs quite well. If a train has to allow for a two minute headway, then you have only 30 trains an hour. A bus can easily allow for two second headways, which means 30 trains a minute. Can a train carry 60 times the passengers of a bus? Absolutely — but not our trains. As misguided as much of what Niles and company writes, that is essentially his point.

        But again, it gets more complicated than that. The buses have to stop, or at the very least, merge. From a stopping standpoint, things again get very complicated. Do you allow a bus to pass another bus? The old bus tunnel allowed that, and it is certainly allowed in Bogota (which is how they get ridership per hour per corridor much higher than we will every achieve with our light rail trains). But sometimes that doesn’t make sense. While you could pass a stalled or stopped bus in the old bus tunnel, every bus made every stop (unlike Bogota). So this, again, gets complicated. Dwell times for vehicles tend to match the number of doors. So BRTs tend to have much lower dwell times than long trains. But as we all know all too well, dwell times can vary a lot per agency. The reality is that every vehicle will have a slightly different dwell time. So a fleet of vehicles, all arriving at the station at the same time (or two second behind each other) could theoretically all leave at the same time, chance are they won’t. The fleet of buses is dragged down by the slowest bus, just as the train is dragged down by the slowest door. Stop after stop, eventually, that two second window you have to allow starts to grow. A fleet of buses trying to mimic the New York Subway begins to stretch very long, and reach the next “train” or fleet. I can’t help but think that there is some formula out there involving the length of the train, the number of buses, and the headways of the trains. As it turns out, for the tunnel we are thinking about digging, all factors favor the buses. There are only six shared stations. The trains aren’t very long. The headways (if they are like the other tunnel) aren’t very good. We aren’t building the New York Subway.

        Then you have merging. I think it is pretty easy to see how a bunch of buses, all converging onto the same corridor would require some waiting. I personally don’t see this as an issue. Consider the alternative. If the first vehicle was a train, then the bus rider would have to get off the bus, and wait for the next train. This might mean a wait of a couple minutes (not counting the walking) as opposed to a few seconds. The bus ride would be less exact, but still faster than making the transfer (e. g. a trip might take 8-10 minutes instead of 12 every time). Unless the train is very long (and ours aren’t) the overall throughput again favors the buses.

        For the type of system we are building, all of this seems academic. I doubt it will ever be an issue. The bus tunnel was nowhere near capacity when it operated as a bus tunnel. The trains won’t come close either. Except that Sound Transit is using this as an excuse to build another tunnel. They haven’t studied these issues, or even explored ways to improve the headways on the existing tunnel (which would have added benefits beyond simply increasing capacity). They are building the tunnel, saying we need the capacity, and that is that. It seems absurd that folks like us are discussing and debating the capacity issue, while the organization that is proposing an enormously expensive transit package — and using the issue to justify a major part of it — hasn’t done the research. I guess it doesn’t matter if you don’t care.

      8. “This really has nothing to do with politics, unless you think it is easier, politically, to sell something that is less effective for the very people it purports to serve, let alone the greater population that will pay for it.”

        But why is ST promoting the spine? It’s being pulled by Snohomish and Pierce, who made it their #1 priority. If they’d said, “Actually, we don’t want the light rail spine anymore; we want something else,” then ST would have done something else. But Tacoma and Pierce County, and Everett and Snohomish County, have it in their head that Link is vital for their economies, specifically in attracting jobs. ST promoted the extended spine to some extent but it’s not all ST, it’s the subareas pulling ST and not taking no for an answer. And really, now that the travel times are published, it’s the subareas’ fault for not letting ST consider anything else. For instance, if Pierce said, “Actually, we want lots of Sounder now instead. Sounder, Sounder, Sounder,” would ST have said no? Even if you believe the conspiracy theories that it’s all to keep a large ST staff employed, they could just as easily be employed on Sounder projects rather than Link projects. And more so, since Sounder is more labor-intensive.

    4. Keith, Honestly Mark Ahlers, Maggie Fimia, John Niles, and Vic Bishop are stuck in denial about rail working within the city limits and won’t listen. They can as far as I am concerned John Niles shouldn’t even be running smarter transit given him heading the No On ST 3 campaign. They are simply stuck in old iedology and are irrelevant based on their social media presence and lack of being on any sort of mainstream media.

      1. Here’s a visual especially good for a bumper sticker. A four-car LINK train of 90′ cars. And six-coach articulated bus platoon. About same passenger load (though trains can easily carry more). Both groups same length standing still.

        Then show them both at 60 mph. And in the five nose-to-tail following distances between the buses, shade in bumper to bumper bus shapes, and the number of passengers train same length will carry.

        Standard buses aren’t framed out to couple. Of course someone can build such a bus- but think that result cost same as train, but more complicated and less capacity.

        Usual Suspects roundup really painful, though. Everybody in high school knows boys into streetcars are escaped hamsters in horn rims. And vehicle design at its cruelest dictates that Siemens’ best S70 LRV looks less like a 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix than a Rapid Ride bus does.

        No fair those three suburban guys all had convertibles so they could show off their ducktail haircuts and turned up James Dean shirt collars like Metro didn’t allow on duty. But Maggie and me were working on same DSTT project in Transit Politics class!

        Yeah, re-wiring trolley-poles always made the tape fall off my glasses. But Maggie still knows better about line haul transit, no matter how cute those BAD boys are still are.


      2. DH – I’d like to think we could ignore them, but we can’t. They have been very successful getting earned media so far with regular KUOW peices and, or course, the very effective Seatttle Times opening day “party” article.

        What remains to be seen is how effective those messages are outside of their bubble.

        The Times is going to be running negative nearly non-stop.

      3. We can’t ignore them because they’re part of the territory. Thanks for the link, because I didn’t really know there were local right-wing talk shows beyond Dori Monson. My mom listened to KVI for decades and when it went right wing she switched to KIRO, and then when the talk went to FM she switched to KIRO-FM, and I’ve heard it gradually degrade over the years. I myself listen to KUOW and the other noncommerical stations and SOMA-FM (online music), I used to listen to commercial music stations for years and listened to KING-AM talk from 1990 till whenever it ended, but then all the music stations became the same and I grew allergic to commercials and hypey hosts. So I don’t know what the local right-wing talk shows are. But I cringe that Todd Herman and Dori Monson are propagating these ideas about ST. But on the other hand, who’s listening to them beyond people who’ve already made up their minds?

        And dear Fox News. I watch it when I’m in hotels or at the gym for “balance” and to see what they’re saying. But when I go to the website it says, “Choose your cable provider.” I don’t have cable. MSNBC lets me watch Rachel anyway, but FOX won’t show me even the most basic, inexpensive show. I thought they wanted to propagate their opinions. I guess money comes first though.

      4. They’re playing tricks with numbers. We have tens of thousand of happy riders on the ground. Reality speaks louder than Angry Bird.

      5. @Mark — What about the next train and the next set of buses? Seriously man, think about it. Imagine a four car train. Now imagine another four car train, two minutes behind it. That is as close as is allowed. Now imagine those buses again, giving each other a comfortable two second gap*. If you decide to include two trains (each with four cars) that is a lot of buses to put on that bumper sticker.

        As I said up above, it is complicated. There are a bunch of factors. For an entirely closed system, with a lot of stops and long trains (e. g. NYC subway) the train has much higher capacity. But for a shared corridor (e. g. SR 520) or a tunnel with only a handful of stops (e. g. the WSTT) it is likely that the buses have a higher capacity than our small trains.

        * I don’t think Metro drivers allow that much time. I remember when they were told to. But as soon as they did, cars would sneak in front of them. That would force them to go slower. Next thing you know, they crawled across the bridges. That rule got axed very quickly. Anyway, that is what I heard — maybe that is an urban legend.

      6. @Brent — Tens of thousands attend the Sounders games. That doesn’t mean they are making the right decisions.

        Even with as many people take Link, way more people ride the bus. Without a doubt many who used to ride the bus for part (or all) of their trip, now take the train. Some save time, some don’t. None of that means that ST3 makes sense. The part they just finished is by far the most effective section that anyone could ever build. Even if you were trying to screw it up really bad, you would still get tens of thousands of riders. ST3 is different — very different.

    5. So, about that Tacoma Link decline:

      1. More people using the Tacoma Dome parking structure for Sounder + ST express and thus Tacoma Link passengers are locked out due to capacity of the park and ride lots?

      2. Tacoma instituted parking payments. I was told they did this because nobody could find parking as cars would stay in the street foe weeks at a time in their downtown. The parking fees help free up more street parking. So maybe fewer people are using the Tacoma Dome lots as parking in Tacoma has become easier?

  2. September 30th is a Friday so not only the Huskies and Mariners games but obviously also the normal afternoon commute so it could get very interesting and crowded.

    1. Huskies kick off at 6 pm, putting the crowd arrival into the middle of peak. However, the real peak is still southbound from UW in the PM.

      The Mariners’ first pitch is scheduled for 7 pm.

      The football game should be over about 9:30 pm. The baseball game 10:00 or so, creating an unprecedented crush just after 10 pm southbound at Stadium Station.

      I don’t think ESPN will budge, but maybe the Mariners could move back first pitch an hour that Friday, and I don’t think ST would need much convincing to keep Link and ST Express running a little longer. A special late-night run of Sounder would also be most welcome.

      1. You are right about ESPN not budging on the 6 o’clock kickoff but I also don’t see the Mariners moving the first pitch back one hour either. That is the final weekend of the season and it will be fan appreciation for all 3 games with many prizes being given away. These games bring out large crowds with a lot of kids so an 8 pm start for the baseball game would mean for a 3 hour game not ending until after 11 pm or later. There is also local TV for both the Mariners and A’s that would be affected by a later start.

        So with all of that happening that evening it will be a serious test for ST in how they will handle the crowds on light rail and hope that they learned some lessons from the Seahawks Super Bowl parade.

    2. Yep. Friday has been the biggest overall Link day already. Likely related to the connection to Capitol Hill’s huge entertainment district. I’ve been on trains after 10 on a Friday that were full (but not packed) on just a normal night.

      We definitely want to see 4 car trains that day. This is a chance to have the biggest transit day ever in Seattle and have it run smoothly.

      1. I don’t expect September 30 to come close to Super Bowl Parade ridership on any particular transit mode, except Link.

        Several days since U-Link opened surpassed the parade record of 72K boardings, simply because the line is longer and more LRVs per hour can pass through the downtown tunnel now than then.

        Every transit mode going downtown on the parade day was unable to meet ridership demand. There were probably more riders that day who went to board Link, weren’t able to get on, and gave up, than the number who actually rode. September 30 won’t have that problem.

      2. What will be different for the September 30th Huskies game is that Metro will not be able to provide the normal shuttle services from various Park and Ride lots and additional service from Lake City on the # 65 and #75 and from Ballard on the # 44.. In addition in past seasons there was additional service on the # 43 from downtown.. On the latter there is now some rush hour service but most if not all of the riders who took the # 43 to Husky Stadium in the past will now be riding the Light Rail.

        This is not the first Huskies home game of the season but the first 3 home games are all on Saturdays with kickoff times of 11 am, 2 pm and 5 pm. So those games will be first test of how it will go with Light Rail but a Friday game with a 6 pm start is a whole different thing with commuters, Huskies fans and Mariners fans all trying to go to different places at the same times It will probable not match the Seahawks parade but it maybe a long time before any event or events will come close to matching that day for maxing out transit service.

      3. What will happen to the routes that use Montlake north of Pacific? Commuters use them to get to and from Link now and at least some have no alternate connection.

      4. Quick! Get some of the cars San Diego is retiring and put 1,500v power supplies and modern controls in them so they are compatible with Link cars.

        The good news is that the FTA requirement is for 10% spare equipment for normal everyday operation. This one day is not normal every day operation, so I don’t think it should be an FTA issue for 100% of the cars to be out on the line at the same time.

        The National Transit Database:
        says SoundTransit has 62 cars as of 2013, or 138% spares for peak service.

        62 cars gets you 15 four car trains and two spare cars.
        44 minutes from end to end currently.
        Say you’ve got 3 trains at platforms laying over at UW and SeaTac, so you’ve got 12 scattered in operation along the length of the line. That’s 6 northbound and 6 southbound.

        44 minutes / 6 trains = 7.3 minutes. Considering 3 of those trains are laying over at the ends there’s probably enough slop there to get to 6 minute headways.

        So, you could probably come pretty close to keeping 4 car trains coming every 6 minutes if you really worked at it, and were willing to go just the one day with very few spares.

      5. In past years for the Saturday games routes # 65 and #75 were routed off the campus and instead stayed on city streets north and west of the campus meaning that they stayed away from Husky Stadium. The # 372 did not operate on the weekends so it was not affected but of course it does now. If the reroutes in place on the Saturday for the graduation ceremony at the stadium these routes will continue to be re-routed away so transferring to and from Light Rail will be difficult if not almost impossible.

        In past years route # 44 did not go any further then Campus Parkway so presumable routes # 45, # 71 and # 73 will be the same. So transferring to those routes from Light Rail will also be difficult if not almost impossible.

        I brought this up to Metro planners prior to the changes and they just shrugged it off so I guess we will stand back and be amazed to see how this will all go on football Saturdays and for this season the one game on Friday

      6. Perhaps the answer for northeast Seattle to downtown when UW Station is choked in traffic and the buses are rerouted away from it, is to somehow get to the 26 or 522. There’s also the 41 but it’s not an option south of 103rd Street.

      7. Maybe the city could extend the bus lanes on Pacific all the way to 15th, and make them actual bus lanes (no access unless you’re turning into the hospital) with actual enforcement? If it works, just leave the paint down.

    3. I wonder how many people will ride the train to the Husky game. In general i wonder how many people ride it from the south. I would guess that for a substantial part of the folks, Link is irrelevant. I think it is crazy that we built another football stadium (I think the Huskies should play in Seahawk Stadium) but one advantage is that huge numbers of people walk to the game. Many of the places nearby — Montlake, Ravenna, Wallingford — will ignore Link. Same with the entire north end as well as the east side. I would be surprised if more than 20% of the people came via Link.

      But that is still quite a few people. The Huskies play Stanford, so that is a big game. The stadium holds 70,000, so maybe 10 or 15 thousand people will ride Link to the game.

      Then there is the baseball game. The fundamentals for the baseball game are completely different. You don’t have a natural set of attendees (i. e. students who live close to campus) that will walk to the game. I would imagine fans are spread out all over town. The stop, meanwhile, is right in the middle of the line, and right in the middle of town. But baseball attendance isn’t that big, and isn’t likely to be that big that day (the Mariners will probably be out of the playoff hunt by then). Still, a few thousand sounds reasonable.

      So I would expect the two games to add around 20,000. Overall, I think Metro will be struggling far more than Sound Transit. Unless, of course, the media freaks out about the whole thing (game-ageddon?). Those predictions of deadlock usually work out quite well (people stay home in numbers that make up for the problem).

      1. Well, I think the Seahawks should have played at Husky Stadium. We were there first. ;) Moving off-campus was and always will be a non-starter. The University didn’t want it; the students certainly didn’t want it, and those of us who actually paid for it definitely didn’t want it.

        I think you’ll find that, percentage-wise, the number of people who walk to the games without reaching the neighborhood via some other means of transportation — car, bus, now train — is fairly small; in this case even that relative handful that live in those close-in neighborhoods will actually be starting from there on a work day, instead of from where they are actually working. You have the students, of course, and the relatively few who actually live within walking distance, but many more drive–mostly tailgating–and take the bus. The last information I’ve seen is that on a normal game day approximately 20,000 take the bus or bus shuttles. Those won’t be operational for the most part that Friday (no shuttles); it will be mitigated a bit by the typical greater service on a peak-hour weekday, but people are used to showing up at their area transit center and having a direct non-stop to the stadium. Those will be gone. Also gone will be the ability to drive/tailgate, as in the past for weeknight games school parking was wholly or mostly unavailable. Thousands normally come and tailgate at lots throughout campus. Those people will need to find a different way to come. Finally, you have a situation where many fans who live outside the core are downtown or in the vicinity at work; those people will nearly all take the train.

        I think you will find more than 10-15,000 try and take the train if only because their other options will nearly all be gone–and this is a big enough game that it is very doubtful many people will decide to stay at home. That is more likely for a Mariners game, which is 1 out of 81 and may well–yet again–be to see a team that’s already been eliminated.

  3. Interestingly, if you do the math on average ridership cost and look at projected ST2 yearly operational costs once East Link opens, they only need ~105k passengers a day to be fiscally solvent.

    The fact that they’re looking at getting to that point, or close to it, without the East Link even in play tells me they drastically underestimated Light Rail demand in the U District, and this bodes well for bond payment coming to an end earlier than expected. If Angle Lake manages to follow this trend a bit, we could be looking at much faster expansion via ST3, with operational revenues contributing at a quicker AND higher rate than projected :)

    1. I’ll reply to myself as my math was wrong. To be fiscally solvent with operational cost of the East Link, they’d need just over 200k per day average with a ticket price of $2.50.

      On the Central Line, however, this is not the operational cost, so I hold that the line will be operationally solvent due to over-performance of the new stations :)

      1. Keep in mind that most riders aren’t actually paying $2.50 per boarding. Those with monthly passes are probably paying somewhere around half of that per boarding, once the fare distribution from each pass gets settled. Also, those with discount ORCA cards (seniors, riders with disabilities, youth, and low-income) are collectively well over 10% of ridership. Fare “evasion” hovers around 3-4%.

        OTOH, the top fare is now $3.25, and will probably be even higher from downtown Redmond to Lynnwood.

      2. Brent’s point is real accurate. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of most Link rides involve a bus transfer, so ORCA fare-splitting comes into play. I personally NEVER set foot on Link without first hopping a bus to get me there, so at best ST gets $1.25 of the $2.50 posted price. And on a couple of trips per week, I even ride a bus at both ends of my Link ride, so sometimes ST only gets $0.83 (assuming I understand how the fare distribution works, which is totally not guaranteed).

      3. There is seasonal variation on average fare/boarding which peaks in the summer. Last time I checked it peaked at just over $2/trip, but I’m betting U-Link lowered that though factors point in both directions:

        1). UW station bringa a lot of bus transfers. ⬇️

        2). UW/CH have a high % regular of riders with passes.⬇️

        3). UW/CH station induce transit trips from tourists/one time/lunch riders. ⬆️

    2. With extensions, there is increased fare revenue – but there is also increased costs in extra trains and drivers, and station and track upkeep staffing. Only in cases where ridership surges can farebox recovery show great improvement because the denominator (pperating costs) increases along with the numerator (fares). It’s a productivity measure.

      I would suspect that Angle Lake won’t have much effect, Northgate Link in 2021 will increase the ratio, and East Link / Lynnwood Link in 2023 will lower it.

      1. Lynnwood will be minus over a hundred bus runs if you count all the ST and CT routes that will be truncated, so that’s a lot of passengers to pay for the extension. Whether it breaks even depends on exactly how the costs and riders compare, and the effective monthly pass discount. If it does lower the ratio, it won’t be by much. And Lynnwood Station will bring in a lot of one-seat rides that don’t exist now (from Lynnwood), so that will attract people. And Link addresses the large Lynnwood to north Seattle transit market that no bus has ever served. The current express buses offer only 45th and 145th. That’s impractical if you’re going to Northgate or Sand Point or Greenwood or Lake City because you’d have to backtrack from 45th local buses. And the 145th stop is useless for this because no bus serves it except the 30-60 minute 347.

    3. Keep in mind that Link has just added the most cost effective section they will ever add. Or, at the very least, they are close. The section between the U-District and I. D. will be the best section from a rider per mile, or rider per hour basis. Nothing else will be in the same league.

      This was obvious 50 years ago, and obvious now. If you look at a census map, it is obvious. It is obvious when you are told told that one very dense section is our downtown business area (that is booming) and the other contains the biggest university in the state, major retail operations and skyscrapers (with more on the way soon). It is obvious when you are told about the distances involved (fairly short) as well as the traffic patterns (congested much of the day, with no good way to get to Capitol Hill).

      I’m not sure why Sound Transit underestimated it, given the fact that they have overestimated numbers before, and seem to be really overestimating numbers for the suburbs. In their defense, I don’t think they predicted the major restructure in the north end. If the train went to the U-District, then the restructure was mandatory — no one would want to ride those buses. But given the awkward location of the Husky Stadium station, most people on this blog predicted the 71/72/73 would stick around for five more years. They are now gone, so folks who want to make this vital connection have to take the train. None of the other areas will be subject to the whims of Metro — they will make changes that you can predict fairly easily.

      So I wouldn’t read too much into it. I don’t think just because they underestimated this section, that they are being overly conservative. Time will tell, of course, but I would be very surprised if we average 200,000 in the next 10 years. We might get pretty close, though. Maybe 175,000 or so.

      From an operations standpoint, Northgate Link should be OK (it includes the U-District station, and it isn’t that far to Northgate). Lynnwood Link should be a lot more expensive. I just don’t see the kind of all day service along here that is really cost effective. East Link is a bit more complicated. The big question is whether lots of people use it for trips within Bellevue. If so, then it should be a decent value. But crossing the bridge takes a while (it is a much longer line) so I see it as being somewhere between Northgate Link and Lynnwood Link as far as midday service is concerned. The south end of Link shouldn’t change much. Running the train to the airport is expensive, but does get a few riders. Adding in more stops will likely make it less efficient, because unlike the city, those stops are not close to each other.

  4. The comparison that most impresses me is that average Saturday (46,270) and Sunday (36,474) boardings on Link in May 2016 exceeded average Weekday Link boardings (35,859) in May 2015. Sundays this year had about 600 more boardings that the average weekday last year, while Saturdays in 2016 had more than 10,000 more boardings that an average weekday in 2015.

    1. Yeah it’s crazy how good the numbers are. Looking at ST2 estimates it really seems like they undersold the ridership. Considering they think only 260k people would be using Light Rail by 2030…that seems pretty conservative. Once the Northgate extension opens, that’s another 60,000+ riders…and somehow only 50,000 riders will use East Link according to ST? Hard to believe tbh.

      1. Oh, I don’t know, that seems about right. As mentioned down below, this is pretty much what people predicted ( I don’t have the link to the old threads, but what I wrote there is pretty much identical to what I wrote before U-Link opened. 20 to 40 thousand new riders sounds about right. That particular section wasn’t too hard to predict, since there were only a handful of new trips.

        It gets a lot harder with the rest of the system. For example, it isn’t that easy to get from Capitol Hill to Northgate right now. How many people will now take advantage of that? How many people will take a bus from Fremont, then transfer heading north or south. It gets really complicated really quickly.

        To be fair to Sound Transit, one of the reasons they underestimated this section (the last time they did estimates) is that they had no idea Metro would be so aggressive with their restructure. A lot of people assumed they wouldn’t. The general consensus on this blog was that Metro would keep the 71/72/73, just because the transfer at the stadium is so tough. If those buses were still running, there would be a lot fewer people taking Link right now.

        60,000 seems a bit high for the Northgate section, but not crazy high. 50,000 riders for East Link also sounds about right. The thing is, neither section is highly dependent on Metro doing anything unusual. There will be truncations for sure, and I would assume that is already part of the thinking.

    1. It’s been crickets over at King Street Center. We’ve asked for ridership updates multiple times, but have been told they need more time to process them.

      1. Thanks for trying. The latest GM monthly newsletter came out in December with this headline.
        “Giving you the information you want, faster”
        So sorry to see Kevin go – I never realized he did so much.

    2. I’m curious how the Capitol Hill and UW service data has changed for Metro. FHSC data would be interesting too.

      1. I agree. This was a major restructure, and it will be interesting to see how it has all shaken out.

  5. I’m putting down my pom poms to type GO SOUND TRANSIT!

    – Sam. Voted most transit spirit!

  6. These data for Link are more harbingers that the predicted maximum load segment is to be between Westlake and Capitol Hill stations by 2021.

    Curiously, we aren’t planning a direct strategy to directly ease this crowding in ST3 projects. If anything, riders from Lower Queen Anne or South Lake Union will connect using the new line to Westlake and then transfer to go to/ from the north – adding even more riders to the most crowded Link segment.

      1. A tie back to the red-blue Link lines would indeed help the capacity challenge if it happens — but only if green line speeds are competitive.

        Other solutions:
        – SLU trolley extension to UW in exclusive ROW.
        – A fast connection between SLU and Capitol Hill like a Metro 8, sky cable or underground funicular.
        – reengineering of the light rail tunnel and stations to get more frequent and/or longer trains.

        Crush loads are not going to happen right away, but the issue should be on the radar screen — with or without ST3.

    1. That’s why there are two lines there. And there’s nothing preventing ST from going to peak frequencies all day, so it could offer 3-minute all-day service between Westlake and Capitol Hill if it wants to someday.

    2. Interesting. I hadn’t though of it that way. I keep thinking in terms of trips (e. g. U-District to Westlake) as opposed to individual segments. I think you are right. Here is what I think is likely to happen for a morning train heading south:

      From the north, we keep adding passengers. A few get off at Northgate and a handful at Roosevelt, but in general, a big increase as you head south. Things change dramatically at the UW. For both stations, quite a few people get off, but I still think more get on. The same is true for Capitol Hill. So while the rate of boarding to alighting slows down, the net is still positive.

      Then the trains arrives at Westlake. Huge numbers of people get off. Having ridden the 41, I can say that lots of people get off at both Westlake and Convention Place Station. Some get on, of course. The tunnel is used a lot for trips within downtown. But there are other options, and our stations are very deep. Even in the ride free days, when the buses had very high frequency (higher than our trains will have) it often was just easier to take a surface bus.

      From the south things will be similar, if not more pronounced. Up until I. D., you don’t have too many people getting off the the train in the morning. Then the relive valve is hit, and huge numbers of people get off the train.

      The difference is that ridership from the north will be much higher. There really is nothing that is going to be added from the south that will fundamentally increase ridership. They’ve already built the bulk of the system. Yet Link handles things just fine, and does so without four car trains. Ridership should grow (as areas like Rainier Beach grow) but not the way the north end will grow. The U-District station is likely to have the highest ridership of any station outside downtown, if not the entire system, and it hasn’t been built yet.

      Yes, you are right — we aren’t doing anything to ease the crowding that may occur here. The extra line won’t help at all. Like you said, the connections to Ballard will only make the crowding worse. Even the connection to West Seattle will make things worse.

      So while the extra tunnel is nice and all, to say that it is necessary to relieve crowding is very misleading. It only relives crowding for the alternatives (such as interlining at Westlake).

      1. One thing that might help this is the restructure of the routes, so that the south line goes to Ballard and the north line goes to West Seattle. It means almost nobody is going to be staying on the West Seattle train since there really isn’t any major employment centers over there vast numbers of people would be headed to.

        The eastside line is a different matter, since the transfer at UW to bus routes headed to Bellevue isn’t so great. A fair number of people may stay on those trains to go through downtown to get to Bellevue and beyond.

        I think there is going to be a huge need for a set of short-turn trains that run Northgate to Bellevue or something along those lines. This will help get the train hours to where the most crowding will be.

  7. Bikes are becoming a pain on packed rush hour trains, blocking doors and taking up the space of 4 or 5 people.

    1. The larger issue is how much dwell time blocking the doors (regardless of how) is adding, and impacting all the vehicles waiting in line behind the train.

      Hanging out by the door is okay. Just hang out by the door that won’t be opening for awhile.

    2. No easy solution to that issue. The idea of a “bike car” is a nonstarter. Even if it had excess fleet capacity, which it doesn’t, ST would need 10+ bike cars to ensure that every train had one at rush hour. No way is that justifiable.

      Politically ST can’t ban bikes at rush hour. Not only would it upset a lot of voters, but it opens a Pandora’s box of “banning stuff that takes up space” – aggrieved bike riders would point to luggage, strollers, and shopping bags.

    3. In Portland, Trimet has a policy that you can only take bikes on the train if you can find a designated spot for them. That said, the root cause appears to be the fact that you guys are running 2-car trains during rush hour, when you have the infrastructure to run 3 or 4-car trains. Coming from Portland, where our system is limited to 2-car trains, I find this baffling.

    4. @Chris – I’m not sure the details, but keep in mind that both the buses and trains share the tunnel. This means that a three car train may not be able to run often, since it needs more room. Or something like that. I’m just guessing here, but I seem to remember someone saying that it isn’t so simple (you can’t just run four car trains all the time, even if you could afford it).

    5. Agreed.

      Most major transit systems bar bicycles during peak hours on their rail lines (yes, even including that cycling mecca Amsterdam), and that’s something we need to look into as well–we are not some “special snowflake” and the trains are designed to serve people. It’s not just the doors, it’s the need to brush past often dirty wheels, etc. when trying to disperse through the train — and nobody wants to damage the bikes when trying to get around them.

      The difference between bikes and luggage is that one is already a means of conveyance and the other isn’t; it’s difficult to serve the airport without allowing luggage; and most shopping bags and luggage can fit on laps when seated. A bike takes up as much room as three standing people As the trains get more crowded, particularly at peak times, most people with luggage will end up finding different ways to get around anyway. Very few people in their right minds travel with luggage on the New York, London or Santiago metros at rush hours–you might never get on (or off) your train!

      1. Except that most major transit systems have enough stops and feeder lines that they’re usable at peak hours without having to take your bike.

        And also, we’re still running a substantial number of two-car trains. Before we talk about banning bikes, let’s run longer trains!

      2. I assume that you, as all of us did, used your bike before there was a train. Either the system was usable then, or you don’t actually “have” to take your bike on board now. I’m sure it’s a convenience to not have to ride up Capitol Hill, but somehow people got around before Link. The system is designed to move people first and foremost.

        Transit best practice the world over is to not allow bikes on trains at rush hours, ranging from outright bans (most systems) to defacto bans (BART for example only allows bikes “if there is reasonable room” which at rush hours is almost never). A handful allow use of the storage area only, but how do you know if there’s luggage in there (also permitted) before you board? Who is going to bring their bike on and then leave the train again if another bike is there, or if there’s luggage, or standees? Unless it’s enforced, which it won’t be, we get back to the same issue of bicycles blocking people’s movement on the trains and taking up 2-3x more room than a single passenger does. Yes, we need longer trains, but as ridership grows the problem will remain. It’s manageable now as we’re not at crushload on most trains but that will change over time. As we actually get to two minute headways, the additional load and unload time will become unfeasible at any rate. It’s not a huge deal now, but at some point in time it will need to be addressed.

        What we really need is much better bicycle storage options at stations than we’ve been given (UW and Capitol Hill in particular; Roosevelt will be another when it opens), and bikesharing at all stations so that the last mile issue is solved at either end.

  8. I helped bump up PM reverse commute South Sounder numbers last week riding from Tacoma to King Street. What a delightful journey! However, the 1/2 dozen or so people per car doesn’t bode well for those wanting additional reverse/off peak Sounder runs. OTOH, Tacoma Link seemed quite well used both at 3PM and 5PM in both directions. I’m wondering if, given the lack of fare collection, the ridership guesstimates are just plain wrong.

    Question. I tried to pay with my ORCA card which I knew only had $2 in the ePurse. Instead of doing an autoload like I expected I had to use my credit card. I guess I could have added value instead but the train was 5 minutes from departure and not having ridden before didn’t want to spend the time messing around with it. When I transferred to a 255 tapping my ORCA card gave me the notice about value added as has always happened. Why doesn’t this work trying to purchase a Sounder ticket and did I lose out on a transfer from Sounder to Metro?

    1. If you tapped on or off of Sounder (or at any fixed-location reader) after adding the money, it would transfer it to the card immediately. The message should have been then but perhaps it was delayed until the next tap for some reason. Or maybe there’s new technology on that particular 255.

      1. I couldn’t “tap on” to Sounder because when I tried it told me there were insufficient funds and to pay another way. Perhaps my error was going to a TVM instead of a simple reader? All I saw was the TVM and didn’t have time to go on a walk about. In retrospect I should have just added value and tried again but only having 5 min. until departure and not sure I was even in the right platform I didn’t want to take the time and was afraid something was wrong with my ORCA account.

        But from your reply I gather that my 255 fare would have been a free transfer if I’d jumped through the hoops correctly? I had a paper ticket, should I have shown that to the 255 driver since Metro still takes paper transfers? Rookie mistakes!

        Another point. I boarded at ID Station. At one of the subsequent DT bus tunnel stations the driver opened the rear door and people piled on. There was no way they could make it to the front as the bus was packed at that point. This seemed the norm as there were a ton of people waiting at the rear door. Is this totally on the honor system that they are transferring or have a pass?

      2. I thought Link and Sounder let you have a negative balance for one trip. Maybe it’s because you didn’t have the minimum Sounder fare. So you never tapped Sounder after it rejected you, your first tap was the 255 and it recognized the refill. That doesn’t usually happen but it’s possible that Metro’s introducing some new technology, or that particular location has wifi access to the nearby base.

        As for going in the back door on packed buses, that used to happen on the 71/72/73X at Campus Parkway. And the inverse when pay-as-you-leave was in active: you’d get out the back and hold up your pass or ORCA card outside the front door. It’s the only way to deal with thirty or forty people getting on or off at once and the front half is packed full and it would take ten minutes for everyone to step in front, pay, and step out again (because there’s no room up front). I haven’t seen it since U-Link started but it may happen on some routes.

      3. The last time I took the 41 during rush hour was last year (for jury duty — I no longer work downtown). I noticed something very odd at one of the downtown stops. Folks were getting on via the backdoor. I thought for a second I was dreaming or had entered some sort of time warp (back to the pay as you leave days). Then I figured folks were sneaking onto a crowded bus (both not paying, and getting onto a bus that is packed). The next time i was there, I realized that Metro officials were taking ORCA cards with hand held readers, and waving people into the back entrance. Given the express nature of the 41, and the fact that it is routinely crowded at rush hour, this is a clever way to improve things (while we wait for more buses before waiting for Link).

        I am guessing that is exactly what happened with you, Bernie. It might have been the exact same stop as well.

      4. Ross,
        You are most likely correct. It was only one of the tunnel stations and all the people seemed to know the drill. I was on one of the isle facing seats on the drivers side but it appeared the rear doors opened and “the regular crowd shuffles in”. They must have a Metro employee with a handheld reader propositioned. They know from experience at which station the 255 becomes too crowded to load from the front doors only and this probably saves close to a minute of tunnel time.

        Thanks for explaining!

    2. The morning reverse commute Sounder trip has a terrible schedule, with the last trip leaving King St.before 7 AM. Afternoon reverse-peak trips are hurt by the lack of evening trips, so anyone taking it into town will need to return home on a bus.

      That said, not all “off-peak” times generate equal ridership. A daily weekend route trip leaving Tacoma between 9 and 10 AM, and leaving King St. Station around 5-6 PM would have a lot of potential for people making day trips into the city. CalTrain does something similar with “Baby Bullet” express trains operating 2 weekend round trips, supplementing hourly service on the regular route. On weekdays, I think there would also be a fair bit of ridership potential for morning trips arriving into downtown around 10 AM and evening trips leaving Seattle around 7 PM. Of course, for these “late morning” trips to really work, we need some form of station access other than parking, since, the parking garage will probably be full well before then.

      1. I expect the reverse trips are ones that would otherwise be dead heading. From this one observation I’d guess the additional revenue is breakeven with just deadheading. Adding a dedicated run would be very expensive and likely require a pair off peak runs to position the train sets where they need to be. I don’t see any way ST could make this remotely close to being financially viable given the mid-day (peak freight) time slots they would have to negotiate with BNSF. Taking the bus back to Tacoma in the evening would be faster than Sounder and cheaper. With no rush hour traffic to contend with I doubt this is a reason people aren’t using it.

  9. “Will September 30 be Link’s first 100,000 rider day, and can the agency handle it with its limited fleet? File under #goodproblems.”

    I think Seafair could speed that up… very easily.

  10. Based on my experience, it’s not clear that the UW’s being on break will have that much negative impact on ridership to and from UW station. The UW and the medical center are still both large employers, there is summer school and various orientations and programs for younger students and the U District is supporting a denser population all the time. Plus, a lot of people who might have driven from points north of the UW now figure the trains will be less crowded and are taking Link. I’ve been on a lot of SRO trains at 2 pm and at 7 pm.

    1. Seconded. It definitely had SOME impact, but not huge. Even though the main campus is not terribly busy during the summer, there are still trains leaving UW station with a butt in every seat during the afternoon rush. And it seems to get fuller every week.

      1. This morning I was surprised how busy UW station was both north and south bound. Was at 9:15 AM or so.

        Seemed identical when school was in session.

  11. Are the Link numbers really that impressive? If you add up the weekday boarding numbers on the buses that Metro killed/re-routed to serve Husky Stadium instead of downtown you probably get close to 29,000.

    1. I don’t know about your math, but I do know what I see when the train stops in Capitol Hill Station: about half the riders alight, and are replaced with just as many headed to UW or south. Most of the re-routed buses did not serve Capitol Hill.

      1. The 43 did and depending on where you are going on Capitol Hill, taking a 7X to convention place and walking was often faster than taking a 49/43.

        While your anecdotal experience is helpful, it is not data.

        Here is some actual data from It isn’t perfect but it gives an idea…

        43: 7,748
        71X: 5,273
        72X: 4,821
        73X: 6,083
        Total: 23,925

        And that’s just the 43 and 7X buses. Add in the other North Seattle buses and you cover even more of the ridership gain.

      2. There’s also the quality of service. The 71/72/73X were notoriously unreliable and overcrowded and got caught in traffic. If you rode it when it was using the express lanes you might say it wasn’t so bad, but I rode at other times and it was much worse. We should have an efficient transit system that gets people to where they want to go in a timely manner, not just one that attracts 30,000 new riders. U-Link only partly replaces the 71/72/73X because U-District and Roosevelt stations aren’t open yet. Some of the people who used to be on the 71/72/73X are now on the 76 and 74 and other express routes which were expanded into the shoulder hours so that commuters north of 55th would not “have” to go to UW Station.

        Capitol Hill turnover varies a lot: sometimes it’s half the train, sometimes less, sometimes balanced, sometimes not, but in any case the station is well used.

        The new express from Broadway to UW Station is very popular. When you say people rode the 43, they did because there was nothing better, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t wish there were an express bus to Broadway.

        “The 43 did and depending on where you are going on Capitol Hill, taking a 7X to convention place and walking was often faster than taking a 49/43.”

        Only two blocks of it, Melrose and Bellevue Ave south of Denny. The walk is also uphill across an unpleasant freeway. I’ve lived in two places on Capitol Hill in the past decade: one at Melrose & Thomas, the other at Bellevue & Pine. When I lived further north I always took the 49 to the U-District, and with Link I might still until U-District Station opens. Going south I’d take the 14 if it was coming or walk to Pine Street if it wasn’t, but I always wished the transit weren’t so scattered and I’d probably walk up to Capitol Hill Station instead.

        Living on Pine before Link, I took the 71/72/73X to the U-District, but again under duress because there was nothing better. Sometimes I tried the 43 or 49 but it took half an hour; it makes a significant difference moving just five blocks further south.

      3. >> There’s also the quality of service. We should have an efficient transit system that gets people to where they want to go in a timely manner, not just one that attracts 30,000 new riders.

        I agree completely. It is way too easy to look at ridership numbers and get excited (or depressed). Ridership is only the starting point. If ridership is really low, then you have failed. It doesn’t matter if the riders are thrilled, you probably spent too much money on that service. For example, I used to take a bus to downtown Bellevue that I joked was my private bus. It ran along 125th to Lake City, then cut south and went over 520. It was full, but comfortable (no standing). I loved it. But, of course, it was eventually axed (and deserved to be).

        But if the numbers are good, it doesn’t mean that your new system was worth the investment. The 7 carries over 13,000 people a day, making it the second most popular bus, being barely beaten out by the RapidRide E. Imagine if it is replaced by a streetcar, but they do nothing else. No bus lanes, BAT lanes, signal priority, off board payment or level boarding . Guess what? The streetcar is by far our most successful streetcar in our system. Folks would be patting themselves on the back, and cheering as the new streetcar line gets over 13,000 people a day, or more than triple the other streetcar routes combined! Hurray! But nothing else has really changed. You haven’t added any value. You have simply shifted riders from one mode to the other.

        The opposite can happen as well. Replace the 7 with an underground metro, and you might not see a huge jump in ridership. But everyone who rode it would save a huge amount of time.

        It is tough to see exactly how this fairs. What makes it tricky is the cancellation of bus service from the U-District, and the awkward transfer at Husky Stadium. Without a doubt, some people have a much better ride. If you are headed to the hospital or the stadium or lower campus, then you are definitely coming out ahead. Likewise from various parts of the city to that part of Capitol Hill. But in other cases, you haven’t necessarily gained much and in others, you have probably lost quite a bit. From the U-District and parts a bit north, you had a one seat ride to downtown, which was great if you went with the express lanes. It was also fairly frequent (one of the 71/72/73 was bound to come along soon). Now you have a transfer that costs you at least five minutes, if not more.

        That is why a lot of people predicted that they wouldn’t alter the 71/72/73 buses until Link got to the U-District. My guess is that folks are coming out ahead with the changes overall. The service to Capitol Hill (from both directions) is so much better than before (in both frequency and speed) that this makes up for a lot. This is also an urban area, with urban transit patterns. This means that a lot of riders did not have the express lanes running in their favor, and for them, this is a huge improvement. Metro also improved service in the area (instead of spreading it around the region) which means that the area has much better connections to Link, as well other parts of the city.

        But even with all that, it isn’t the obvious huge win that will occur when Link gets to the U-District. No matter what Metro does, that will save a huge amount of time for a huge number of transit riders.

    2. The numbers are pretty much what people predicted. Since there are only a couple additional stops, it really wasn’t that tough to come up with a ballpark figure. You start with the UW to downtown piece. Since Metro cut the bus routes, you don’t have to worry about whether riders prefer the express bus or not. They pretty much have to take Link to get downtown. The 71/72/73 buses carried over 16,000, but not everyone went downtown. The changes in northeast Seattle really encouraged Link ridership, so folks who might have transferred to the 70 in the middle of the day now transfer to Link, and even with the cumbersome transfer, the added frequency of the northeast end buses makes that trip much better than ever. I think around 10,000 to 20,000 is a safe bet for UW to downtown.

      Capitol Hill is much tougher, because neither connection (UW to Capitol Hill nor Capitol Hill to downtown) had a clear cut bus alternative. You could look at buses like the 43 or 49, but they really are different things. They didn’t go through the tunnel, so they didn’t connect to the south end of downtown (or make for an easy connection to the south end). But estimating 5,000 to 10,000 per trip sounds about right. So that means:

      UW to Downtown 10,000 to 20,000
      UW to Capitol Hill: 5,000 to 10,000
      Capitol Hill to Downtown: 5,000 to 10,000

      Before the restructure we had about 40,000. So the estimate was somewhere between 60,000 to 80,000, which sounds about right. Anything less than that, and I think we would wonder if the restructure was a complete failure, as it would imply that people are driving a lot more. Given the areas involved, that seems highly unlikely (parking is very hard in all three spots). Anything more than that and I think it could be called a surprising success. Folks who used to drive now take the train. Again, that seems unlikely. I am curious about overall transit ridership, though. The restructure was big, and along with this — arguably the most important part of Link that will ever be built — I would expect to see a reasonable increase overall.

      1. It’s not just about trips taken on Link that would have been done on a bus or by car. There’s also trips made on Link that, before, would have not been taken at all. While the number of such trips is difficult to measure, I can say, anecdotally, that I find myself visiting Capitol Hill considerably more now than I did before U-link opened. Some of these trips are on the way to/from other trips. Before U-link, the time penalty for stopping in Capitol Hill on the way between downtown and U-district was just too much, so I hardly ever did. Now, it’s just a few minutes.

  12. Portland visitor here… was up for the STP last weekend and had a chance to take Link from UW to the International District, and check out Capital Hill on the way back. I have to say, the new line to UW is pretty fantastic, and the stations are beautiful. My only complaint would be the use of 2-car trains during rush hour. All three trains we rode were 2-car, and this was during the Friday afternoon rush hour. They were pretty packed the whole time.

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