Sound Transit Chart
Sound Transit Chart

In addition to Metro’s recent release of preliminary bus restructure numbers, Sound Transit has also released a chart giving us a clearer picture of ULink’s station-level ridership through Q2. See above to draw your own conclusions, but here are a few noteworthy points:

  • UW Station: At 9,200 boardings per day, UW Station has the 2nd most riders, and could soon surpass Westlake this fall as the busiest station in the system. Look for it to carry a proportionally heavier burden as tourist numbers fall off at Westlake and UW goes back into session next month.
  • Capitol Hill: At a healthy 6,000 boardings per day, Capitol Hill comes in 4th place behind Westlake, SeaTac, and UW. It will be interesting to see if Capitol Hill has a lower ridership ceiling than other stations, as it’s much closer to having maxed out its zoned capacity, and transfers there will always lag behind UW for geographic reasons.
  • Downtown: ULink has been a boon to the non-Westlake downtown stations too. While Westlake boardings are up 41%, boardings are up 82% at University Street, 80% at Pioneer Square, and 70% at International District/Chinatown.
  • Stadium/Sodo/Beacon Hill: Both Stadium and Sodo still have low ridership outside of event times, but boardings are up by 50% at each station, to 1,900 per day. With event riders from UW/Capitol Hill boosting the average, Stadium is also no longer the least-ridden station. Meanwhile, Beacon Hill is enjoying 20% growth, likely a mixture of continued organic growth and riders choosing Link to Capitol Hill over Route 60.
  • Rainier Valley: Ridership in the valley is mostly flat, with Mount Baker and Othello basically unchanged over a year ago.  Columbia City and Rainier Beach have both grown by 25%. Columbia City has the highest ridership in the valley, with 2,300 boardings per day, while despite its growth Rainier Beach still slipped to become the least-ridden station, at just 1,800 boardings per day.
  • South King: Ridership at Tukwila International Boulevard is up a modest 7%, with further growth likely curtailed by no new bus service, a very low density station area, and maxed out parking. Meanwhile, SeaTac/Airport grew by 9%, from 6,200 to 6,800 boardings.

110 Replies to “ULink Ridership By Station”

  1. Hmm, a little disappointing in the RV – we’ve been getting growth of ~10%/yr overall for a while now, so to see that adding stations to the system didn’t seem to change things in the RV is worrying. It means that either people aren’t using Link to get from the RV stations to cap hill and Link, or that people are and it did provide a boost, but that otherwise ridership growth has stalled.

    It will be interesting to see how things change when the UW is in session.

    1. It simply means that people who commute to Capitol Hill the UW, by and large, are not living in the Ranier Valley. Which, considering that U-link did not open until March, makes sense. Give it another couple years, as the student population cycles a bit, and things may change.

      1. Riders in the RV have been taking the 7 and the 106 for ages. I think we all should be aware that many people prefer a one-seat ride versus having to transfer, even if the transfer means a faster ride. Throw in the mix of a demographic that is largely impoverished and elderly, it’s hard to break old habits and convince the population that Link is better. In my ideal version of a transit utopia, the 7 would truncate at Mt Baker or be interlined with the 48, the 11 extended to Mt Baker via Rainer and all transfers would occur at the foot of Mt Baker station rather than across the street.

      2. How would the 11 get to Mt Baker? The 8 already goes there and the 11 extends all the way to the lake from Madison Valley.

      3. @Scott Stidell Instead of having the 11 live-loop in downtown, I propose it continue south on 3rd as the current 7 routing and terminate at Mt Baker. The new 7 would either start at Mt Baker and proceed south or be interlined with the current 48. But I think for reliability reasons, Mt Baker should be it’s terminus. Like I said, this would only be if transfers at Mt Baker were radically changed and moved at the base of the station rather than across the street.

      4. @Reyes O – Ah, I see. I’m not sure how that would affect the 11’s notorious reliability problems, particularly in the afternoons/evenings, but it probably wouldn’t hurt much (it would be hard to make it much worse).

      5. Metro has been eliminating turns on 3rd between Stewart and Yesler for speed and reliability and to reduce congestion.The Capitol Hill routes are done. The 3 and 4 are waiting for trolley wire on Yesler. The 2 would have been split in 2012 or 2014 with the north part absorbed into the 13 but the restructures failed.

    2. Alternatively, it might mean people already were using Link from the RV to transfer to the 71/2/3 downtown, so their numbers don’t show up as new boardings.

      1. I agree with that observation.

        It’s also possible that some riders from UW that go to points south were boarding Link at Mt Baker last year (48 transfers) and this year they board at UW. That would lower the number boarding at Mt Baker.

      2. Re 70s: Wouldn’t that shift boardings from Westlake to UW station for the return trip, though?

      3. Probably not from Westlake… a rider from the RV (assuming they think & ride like I do) would be making their transfer to a surface route at a different station with a shorter walking distance between the surface bus stop and the underground platform – for the 7, that’s either IDS or Pioneer square… IDS being preferred because it avoids the maximum amount of surface congestion.

    3. Considering how slow and crowded the 7 is, it seems like there should be more passengers transferring at Mt. Baker.

      At one time in the past there was some talk of making the transfer situation there a bit better. Where are they on that?

      1. I would argue that the 7 being so slow and crowded would encourage people to be riding Link all the way (and walk further), rather than ride the 7 all the way. The transfer environment isn’t idea, but it’s not that bad. It’s still a quicker transfer than at the UW Station with the bus stops on Pacific St. The able-bodied people are already doing this and the ones left on the 7 are either headed somewhere that Link doesn’t go (perhaps, transferring to the 550 at Ranier Freeway Station) or are not able to walk up and over the ped bridge.

      2. People living in households at 200% or less of the poverty level qualify for a free ORCA LIFT card. Those who qualify but haven’t gotten the card are paying a lot more in cash than they’d be paying with the ORCA LIFT card.

        Granted, this analysis only applies to able-bodied riders 19-64. I see youth riding the train in droves. Riders with obvious disabilities, much less so. Seniors are somewhere in between.

      3. ….and you have to search the bottom of the ORCA web site to see the alternative languages, rather than have those in the upper right like many multiple language web sites have.

      4. asdf2,

        The stations are too far apart on Link to make “ride Link and walk farther” a practical alternative for all but a distinct minority of Rainier Avenue riders south of Mt. Baker. The six or so block strips at Alaska, Othello and Henderson are about it.

        And remember that the 7’s catchment area goes east from Rainier about six blocks. The vast majority of those folks are really out of reach for Link.

      5. Link’s trip time between Husky Stadium and Mt. Baker Station is 23 minutes. The 48’s trip time varies, but middays it is at 23 minutes. Link trips are more reliable, but once you add in your walk time at Husky Stadium versus the greater coverage area of the 48 in the University District, the advantage of transferring to Link at MBS disappears.

        If your ultimate destination isn’t at Husky Stadium and you need a transfer at Husky Stadium, it usually makes sense to use the 48 instead of Link.

      6. Isn’t there still road construction going on along 23rd Ave. If so, I find it really hard to believe that the 48 could make that trip in 23 minutes, regardless of what the schedule may say on paper.

      7. I’ll chime in that walking from Rainier Beach Station to the community center with a six year old is extremely unpleasant. It is faster and more amicable to ride the 7.

      8. “The 48’s trip time varies, but middays it is at 23 minutes.”

        And in the PM peak southbound it’s 40 minutes.

      9. I know quite a few folks who live in the Brighton/Seward Park area who transfer at Columbia City to either the 50 or 7/9 depending on what is coming soonest since the 50 is 20 minute headways during peak (30 minutes off-peak).

      10. Considering how slow and crowded the 7 is, it seems like there should be more passengers transferring at Mt. Baker.

        Yes, there should. It is a good example of why it isn’t just enough to put in a station, you need to have a good station — one that makes it easy to transfer. You certainly can’t make do with a station that is awful.and expect people to just deal with it. That’s like putting cheap tires on a Ferrari.

        At one time in the past there was some talk of making the transfer situation there a bit better. Where are they on that?

        Good question. It appears they are moving along, but it may take a while:

    4. Agree with asdf2 and William C … I would imagine a lot of the induced demand in RV that is going to be driven by expanding Link requires people to actually move to RV, rather than a current RV resident suddenly ditching a car or bus route, so it will take a longer for the growth to manifest. For example, most UW students probably locked up their fall semester leases before UW station opened, but now that it’s there, some students might think “hey, I can save money living in RV next year”

      Boosting Bus-Rail transfers in RV probably requires either fixing the Mt Baker station or waiting until Judkins Park opens.

      1. It’s a radical idea, but rather than fix the unsafe transfer mess at Mt Baker, I wonder if it would make more sense to move the transfer and layover facility to be next to the Judkins Park station and restructure all the routes.

      2. I don’t think much really needs to get moved. Every Mount Baker route except for the 14 and 8 already serves Judkins Park, and having the 48 lay over south of its main transfer point is no real problem.

        (And I’d be open to talk of moving the 8, too.)

      3. Yeah. If there was a creative way to tie the MB transit center to the station without crossing a busy Rainier Ave and to have better escalators and elevators, the connectivity problem would be mostly solved. I know there have been multiple iterations for redesigning the area streets – but none seem to completely solve the transfer safety and hassle problem for transferring transit riders.

      4. Idea: Give up on the existing transit center; swap it to the UW in exchange for the parking lot in front of their Consolidated Laundry. Move the transit center there, and have northbound buses jog over on Winthrop and Forest.

        That’d still be taking them out of their way, but it’d ease the hassel for transferring riders; the question is which one we should be assuming will be the majority.

      5. Moving the transit center would be one general conceptual alternative.

        Another concept would be to configure a ped-bike mezzanine between the two stations. The current escalators could be shortened to end as a mezzanine, which could extend across Rainier as a bridge.

        Another concept would be to find a way to raise Rainier Ave high enough to create an ADA-compliant walkway under the street.

      6. Or, build a trench and bury it, and put local traffic and the transit center on the surface where the road used to be?

    5. My co-worker at UWMC lives 5 minutes from the RV station but drives anyway because they say that Link is too slow. But their commute times are 6:30 pm and 7:30am. Some people will never use transit unless its faster than driving.

      1. The too slow argument hides a number of other issues. If I had to be waiting or exiting at the RV station at 6:30pm in December, I don’t think I’d take Link either. Just not enough business or street activation around it..

      2. There’s also the cost to fuel and maintain the car. We talk about one marginal trip as not making a difference if you own the car anyway, but the calculation changes if if you do the trip five days a week and it’s the main reason for owning the car. Then there’s the periodic Montlake backups that cars are caught in but Link is not. Of course I don’t know how much Tuck’s neighbor uses the car for other things or really loves the car, but for some people this might be an opportunity to ditch it.

      3. “whats parking cost for uwmc employees?”

        The same as the rest of the UW campus, unless I’m mistaken. $15/day.

    6. It could also be that the RV station is not close to the busier sections of the neighborhood, so folks would rather take the 7 than walk/bus station.

    7. “It will be interesting to see how things change when the UW is in session.”

      The UW was in session April, May, and June when U-Link was running. So it will be about the same.

    8. As an able-bodied twenty-something living in Brighton/Dunlap, I sometimes prefer a shorter walk to the 7 at Holden than walk the few extra blocks to Link. Sometimes the 7 is less crowded at the start of the route (like at Holden or Rose St.) than Link in the mornings.

      It also lets me stop off at Hillman City or Columbia City for a coffee or breakfast if I’m really running early :)

      I still feel like the 7 and Link serve different purposes. Someone living near Rainer Ave. isn’t going to walk farther to Link, ride it one stop, then walk farther back to Rainier. It’s mainly a commuter line down here, to get us from the RV to Chinatown, Downtown, or Capitol Hill.


  2. University Street is the transfer point for RapidRide from West Seattle. The combination of those two services have made getting from West Seattle to either Capitol Hill or the U District feel quite seamless. It would be interesting to know how many boardings are transfers versus locally generated trips. And similarly for ferry transfers through Pioneer Square and Sounder/Amtrak at International District.

  3. Solid growth across the board, sans RV.

    Definitely higher than originally projected by ST. Looking at their timelines and goals, they’re pulling 2018 numbers already.

    1. All the RV stations except Mt Baker show about a healthy 10 percent growth. Mt Baker lost some boardings from CD and UW routes as those people now board at UW or Capitol Hill. I wouldn’t call that truly flat for RV.

  4. My opinion is the original line will be the line through the Rainier Valley will have the least number of riders going forward. The only key stops are SeaTac and then once you get to downtown. The planned routes and stations in the future should provide better ridership, which will only help.

    1. RV is neither a major job destination or nor a major transfer point, so most growth will be due to the actual neighborhoods growing. It will be interesting to see if Grahm St station drives total growth or mostly absorbs riders from the two stations it is in between.

      Assuming rents get going up and up, there is always the change a neighborhood like N Beacon Hill or Othello could see a small construction boom

      1. Sadly, housing availability is much less a function of the market in Seattle, and more a function of who controls the neighborhood association. But then, individuals can also engage in legal obstructionism against upzones, and individuals have at all the Rainer Valley stations and Beacon Hill.

        I find it pretty depressing to see that Capitol Hill’s modest upbuilds have used up most of its zoned capacity. I see places in Vancouver where the newer towers around outer-city stations are a few blocks from the stations. That may be what ends up having to happen in Seattle to accommodate population growth.

        I shake my head that the TOD around Issaquah Highlands P&R is a couple stories taller than the low-rise next to Capitol Hill, Beacon Hill, Columbia City, and Othello Station. These very-low-rise buildings represent an incredible waste of our investment in transportation infrastructure, and of our opportunity to start solving the housing crisis. Affordable apartments with housing units in the mere double digits next to stations ain’t gonna begin to deal with the housing crisis.

      2. Yes, zoning is the primary driver of where growth is. I think Lynnwood is being more ambitious with their upzones, and Bellevue is allowing legit 40 story towers all around downtown.

        However, I object to calling 1+6 or 1+7 zoning “very-low-rise.” Issaquah is trying to build a neighborhood that more resembles Ballard or downtown Redmond, not the next Bellevue. That’s still a huge step forward in density over the current most 1-story commercial district surround by SF homes that is most of Issaquah, and will easily be adding housing units in the triple digits, not double digits, within the station walkshed.

        There will be towers popping up next to rail stations, in Lynnwood, Northgate, U District, and Bellevue. But not everywhere

      3. Brent,

        The city needs to seriously upzone Rainier from Mt. Baker north. Seriously meaning a fifty story limit or whatever the soils will support. Tall buildings there will block nobody’s view and above the eighth or tenth floors will create hundreds or thousands of desirable “view” properties in what is now pretty much an economic wasteland.

        Then make the new 7 RapidRide genuine center running BRT with direct stairs to Link from the street-center stations at Judkins Park and Mt. Baker stations. Run it every five or six minutes all day long and into the night like the 38 on Geary.

        Eventually the Metro 8 line should run elevated, so make the center running BRT with lanes separated far enough for the supports for a Skytrain, which is what the Metro 8 should be so it can run around the clock for little money.

      4. Density doesn’t require highrises, as Paris, Boston, and Chicago’s north side show. 3-10 story buildings are sufficient if it’s throughout a 2×2 square mile area, and you can even have some single-family houses scattered in there. The problem is when lowrise is constrained to a few square blocks in a sea of ultra-low density single-family acres — exactly Seattle’s problem.

        Another issue is space-wasting setbacks and wide streets, but Seattle is not doing terrible in this. It’s bad but better than the US average. So the main problem we need to focus on is the acres of single-family blocks and the severely fenced-in urban villages.

      5. Right – the issue isn’t the lack of high-rises, but the predominance of SF & 1-story zoning.

        There is certainly merit to allowing high rises immediately adjacent to stations. In Bellevue there was talk of height limits next to East Main but the council shut it down under the correct logic of “Yo we just spent $$$$ on a station let’s not kneecap the development”

        However, I think there are reasonable infrastructure & political concerns about high rises in cities that have zero. Going from 1 story suburban to 30 stories is much harder than 1 story to 8 story mixed use.

        @Mike – I do think Seattle has way too much street surface, and I think the council should be much more generous with street vacations whenever that space is being put to good use. (i.e. this is not a commentary on the stadium street vacation debate, but vacations for condo towers or office buildings).

      6. @Mike — Exactly. Well said. It really is striking when you look at the census maps. I wish it was easier to switch back and forth between a Google Street View and a census map, but if you spend some time lining them up, you find that height does not equal density. There are neighborhoods in Brooklyn that have no tall buildings, yet are as densely populated as any in Seattle. Many of them have houses, but the houses are skinny, and right next to each other. Throw in a few small apartment buildings, and you have the density of Belltown.

    2. I find it odd that people think ridership in Rainier Valley is relatively low, and that it is somehow the fault of Rainier Valley, instead of Link. The 7 carries over 13,000 people a day. The 36 carries over 10,000. The 48 carries over 12,000 and the 8 (when it went to Rainier Beach) carried over 10,000. All of these buses serve Rainier Valley one way or another. People in Rainier Valley are taking transit, they just aren’t taking Link (in great numbers). Adding Graham Street station should help, as should some of the reworked bus lines in the area (which should make the transfer in Rainier Beach better). But the big problem is that station in Mount Baker. That really is a key station (it could serve as a key connection between the buses and the train) but it doesn’t, because the station itself is poorly designed. Changes the city makes to the nearby streets might help a bit. When the city improves the corridor for the 7, my guess is ridership on it will increase substantially. This may lead to more Link ridership as well, but my guess is the opposite, as fewer people will hassle with the transfer.

  5. As Disabilities increase (with age or whatever)

    Buses from NW Seattle have to cope with far too much downtown traffic for passengers to transfer to the Light Rail, and then a considerable walk if you have luggage.

    There continues to be no real connection from a ferry to light rail or the train station. Even from the ferry to Alaskan way or 1st street or 3rd street involves a lot of walking. It was far too much for one of our family members in her old age.

    Lack of connectivity between links is characteristic of most American public transit. Given current technology it should not be difficult to have van service, subsidized likely but still requiring up to $5 charge meeting trains and ferries for the connection. Reservation should be made on the train or on the ferry. Payment only by Orca card to reduce costs.

  6. Does ST also report how many people have been fined for not paying? Its disappointing to me that ST didn’t invest in turnstiles at the ingress/egress points of at least a few of the main stations to validate people actually pay. I can’t imagine any enforcement happens at max/crush loads on the train.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if actual ridership was significantly higher than reported especially at peak times.

    1. Fare evasion is part of the monthly ridership report, hovering in the 3-4% range. That stat should be taken with a grain of salt that it includes riders who failed to tap or mis-tapped. (It boggles my mind that they didn’t set up separate tap on, tap off and cancel tones.) Recidivism, IIRC, is small. After ST got permission from the legislature to start issuing citations on the spot rather than attempting to get citees to accept them in the mail, I still haven’t seen whether FOEs are handing those citations to passengers.

      The vast majority of what I see is one or two people getting warnings every time the crew hits my car, but just as often, everyone has paid properly.

      The ridership counts are done primarily by lasers at the doors of a portion of the trains. It is more likely that peak ridership is overcounted, due to riders stepping off and back on the train to allow others to egress, but ST has some sort of procedure to try to extrapolate the step-on/offs.

      1. Thanks Brent. So how is the fare evasion calculated then? aren’t riders who “failed to tap” by definition fare evaders? I get that there is a distinction of intent – and yes without a clear indicator of success/failure not only are you not telling the well intentioned rider they didn’t pay, but you’re also not signaling to those around that a rider didn’t pay. with a turnstile most people aren’t willing to jump the bar because them not paying is now easily visible to everyone.

      2. Turnstiles are more expensive than proof of payment because you not only have to pay for security but also the turnstiles themselves. All the major American transit experts say that proof of payment systems are better because they’re 1) cheaper and 2) more efficient as you don’t have people lining up behind gates. The money ST saves probably more than pays for the 3-4% of people who skip the fare.

      3. ‘aren’t riders who “failed to tap” by definition fare evaders’

        That’s ST’s unjust definition. If you forget to tap or don’t see a reader in line-of-site to trigger your unconscious memory, or you accidentally tap again thinking you didn’t before, then an inspector can give you a $124 fine. So the system is set up for human error, and humans are burned whenever they fall into it. A more usable system would be designed to eliminate the possibility of error. Turnstyles give positive confirmation that you’ve paid or are jumping the turnstyle. An arch shaped like a doorway with an ORCA reader in front of you at eye level makes it practically impossible to forget to tap or to not see the reader.

        Beacon Hill’s readers are on the side so you don’t see them if you’re looking straight ahead at the elevators, and when you’re exiting they’re behind you on the side so they’re even easier to miss.

      4. ST’s fare evasion numbers are riders caught by the FOEs not paying divided by total of number of riders checked for fare payment.

  7. It’s interesting that SODO used to be the least popular station, but only by 4 riders. It would probably have been more descriptive to describe SODO and Stadium as basically tied. My immediate family could have changed the rank all on our own!

    I wish they would release ridership for origin and destination pairs. They probably have the data, since every way of obtaining Link fare involves setting the origin and destination (either a single-ride ticket or a tap-on-tap-off with your ORCA card).

      1. Agreed. UW recently had a campaign about U-Pass holders tapping off in order to save UW money.

        I suppose we might be able to get a baseline when Angle Lake opens. If there’s way more riders exiting Link at Angle Lake vs. boarding at Angle Lake, we’d have a feel for how many people aren’t tapping off southbound.

        In theory we could compare boarding/exiting data for the airport, UW, or (pre-March) Westlake, but since those are major destinations in their own right, the data would be messier.

      2. Even at the top of the south stairs/elevator at Capitol Hill station (much fewer people as no escalator there), I nearly always see someone not tap off when they leave. I imagine most of those people have valid passes and, as David says above, don’t know/care about tapping off.

        Siting the readers more like turnstiles are (and as they are at Sea-Tac and the at-grade stations) would make it more clear that 1) you tap both directions and 2) everything past them is a fare-paid area. The mezzanines would have made more sense for this, with one at the street and platform level of each elevator in stations where the elevator travels directly street-to-platform.

        Doing the same thing at the station entrances is okay as well – but placing them off to the sides provides no visual reminder to tap off nor a clear indication of the fare-paid area.

      3. That would be a problem. It is possible that Sound Transit’s internal database makes a distinction between tapping off at the last stop and failing to tap off, but I have no idea if it does.

        Just a PSA, make sure you tap off no matter what. I used to not tap off (since my pass covers the highest fare), now I do. It turns out that if you don’t tap off, and then get back on the train, then when you tap the reader before boarding the train the second time, that is the tap off. At that point, Sound Transit got paid for one trip and you are technically fare evading. (You could probably guess how I found this out)

      4. The same thing happened to me, @AlexKven. But if ST keeps records of how many people who have valid passes double-tapped or failed to tap, they could collect the revenue share due them. Harassing customers who have pre-paid their full fare is definitely not a best practice.

      5. Seeing someone not tap off doesn’t mean anything… there are still a LOT of cash riders buying tickets at the vending machines.

  8. The Stadium Station numbers strike me as oddly low. If the Mariners are playing almost every other day, and baseball season spans most of Q2, these numbers suggest no more than 3000 fans are taking the train to Stadium Station to get to a typical game. I don’t go to baseball games, so I’m not there to observe what the station’s share of fan transportation is.

    1. A lot of Mariners riders get off at pioneer square and ID, in order to grab food and drink nearby before the game.

    2. A lot of people still take the bus from the north end and walk from IDS. Some folks also get food before the game in ID and Pioneer Square and then walk to the stadiums.

      When the train gets to Northgate, expect to see a pretty big jump all stadium stations at game time.

      I’d also expect to see pretty strong CCC ridership before and after games for bar hopping.

    3. 550 gets a fair number of stadium-bound passengers who simply walk from IDS rather than dealing with a transfer

      1. Especially since transferring in that direction requires you to walk to the other platform, since 550 deboards at the northbound platform.

    4. All of the above, plus it’s an annoying walk from Stadium up and over the railroad tracks. A lot of people prefer IDS where it’s easier to get to the street level, then across and down to Century Link parking lot (plus you can walk down the food vendor row if you want to eat there, which it seems is a popular thing to do). I don’t recall the last time I used Stadium to access either stadium.

      The walk circle for sports fans is quite a bit larger than it is for a typical situation, in no small part because even if you drive and park at a suburban stadium located in fields of parking, you’re still likely to hoof it quite a ways – and at an urban stadium you may not WANT to park adjacent even if you can, because it can take forever to get out (and the prices are insane). People are used to it when you go to games. It’s nearly a mile from a good portion of UW’s tailgate parking to the stadium (the north end of E1 and almost all the on-campus spots from Padelford west), as an example.

      1. Those horrific ramps and flyovers around Stadium station are abysmal, no wonder no one uses Stadium station, seems its only for Greyhound and early morning Link runs before DSTT opens.

      2. It’s a dismal place; the flyovers made it even more dark and Dickensian than it already was. I actually used it when it was a surface walk over the RR tracks directly to Safeco–it was by far the quickest way there–but it was pretty clear that they had to separate car/pedestrian/bike traffic from the trains. Unfortunately it made that station, which of course is designed for game traffic, a worse alternative for many than ID Station is.

      3. The walking route to/from Safeco Field from the Stadium station is pretty indirect and unpleasant, and even worse to/from Century Link. It’s disappointing that neither the city nor state made that more of a priority in how this area was designed.

        Despite the poor walking route, pretty much every train arriving at Stadium from either direction disgorges a substantial number of passengers during the 2 hours before game time. Keep in mind that there are only about 12-14 games/month, and 4-6 of those will be weekend games (baseball always plays Sat-Sun, and there are offdays during the week) so that only leaves 6-10 weekday games per month. This July, for example, there only 5 weekday home games, and there were 9 in June, as compared to 21 weekdays in July and 22 weekdays in June.

        There are things that could be done (or should have been done) to improve the walk from Stadium to Safeco. One is that the Royal Brougham railroad bridge should get a pedestrian crossing over 4th Ave that descends on the block between 4th Ave and the busway. Even if that means a pedestrian crossing of the 2-lane roadway (it doesn’t carry much traffic.) If that can’t be built, then the 4th Ave traffic light should be retimed to shorten the auto traffic signal and give pedestrians shorter waits. The green for 4th is much longer that is needed for traffic volumes (and if there is any backup, it’s due to the capacity of the onramp to I-90/Edgar Martinez, and not the length of the light cycle.) Another thing that could be done is to connect the elevated level of Royal Brougham to the main level of Safeco Field as both entrance/exit, instead of the convoluted path that exists today.

        Finally the whole area needs to have a more friendly streetscape. Get some development going along the borders of the bus base, and along 4th Ave. Don’t make people feel they are walking along freeway ramps. Build some retail/office/apartment whatever. Transit is nearby. It’s near downtown. It part of the city. Give it some life. Since it needs WS-DOT cooperation, it will likely never happen. :(

  9. Rainier Beach doesn’t serve the neighborhood well. But, they are adding a bunch of TOD right now, directly next to the station.

    Other than that RB station is not really close to much of anything. Columbia City got their condos built already, and there is a lot of other housing and businesses close by besides.

  10. If you are think about ridership as strictly people, then maybe ridership could ceiling out at Cap Hill based on TOD. But if you think of Cap Hill ridership as transactional, maybe not. If you think of Cap HIll as playground between the large downtown work/live millennial population and the large UW student/live millennial population, I can see a lot more ridership transactions.

    1. Right. Capitol Hill is an urban neighborhood. Connecting urban neighborhoods results in high transit ridership, day or night, all over the world. Connect this urban neighborhood to other urban neighborhoods (especially ones nearby) and you will see increased ridership.

      Link will continue to do that, but not to a great degree. You have a few more stops to the north, and that is about it, for the foreseeable future. It is questionable whether you will see a big increase in ridership for Capitol Hill as Link stretches out to the suburbs. It is one thing for someone in, say, Belltown to want to get over to Capitol Hill for the evening (or just during the day) but another to assume someone from Lynnwood or Shoreline will make the trek.

      1. Some of these areas could be new urban-like neighborhoods though.

        Federal Way? Proper development patterns, zoning and the addition of the light rail line could do interesting things there.

        In the end though, I expect the lack of vision in Federal Way will make it look more like Tukwila International Blvd than Ballard or Fremont.

  11. I had the pleasure of riding Chicago’s Blue Line, Red Line, and Brown Line earlier in the week. Boy, were those some full trains! It was great to see what a mature system can look like and look forward to how well ours may some day perform. The only thing that I did not like was the number of stops between O’Hare and the Loop, which did add significantly to the travel time. But, so nice that we could hop on and hop off the various rail lines to get between downtown attractions, restaurants, hotels, the airport, and if we were residents, various shopping outlets, grocery stores, places of employment, and neighborhoods. We could improve by having closed-door stations, which is typical of most subways throughout the world. But, we are lucky to be running a transit line past the airport in multiple directions.

    1. Um. er, ah, Engineer. “[T]he number of stops between O’Hare and the Loop” is a major contributor to the success of the El. It replaced streetcars which were getting trapped in traffic as early as 1915. In those days, buses were hardly a contributor so if they wanted to get rid of the streetcars, they had to have frequent stations.

      Now, grant, the Blue Line was build when the Kennedy Expressway was built, so its station aren’t as frequent as say the north end of the Red Line which is “classic El”. But they put them at every arterial because by then there were buses on those very arterials.

      Just because it goes to the airport does not mean it was built for airport travelers. They’re a tiny fraction of the ridership.

      1. Yup, same at the RV section of the Link. All those stations (getting 2 more with ST3!) are a bummer for everyone going to the airport, but pretty good for people who actually live there…

  12. Rainier Valley stations are getting so much ridership that we need to build a station at Graham street!
    That’s a $60M station to split the 4600 combined riders of Othello and Columbia City across a third station. If built today, all three stations could be less popular than the current least popular station.

    Hopefully RV ridership will be healthier by the time we get to the infill stations.

    1. That’s not how transit works. People don’t just gravitate to the nearest station. There are still plenty of people who take the 70, or the 49, for example (from the U-District to downtown or Capitol Hill). But once the U-District station is added, a lot of people will switch to light rail. The same is true for Graham Street. They will take more trips on link within Rainier Valley, and to other locations (instead of taking the bus exclusively or driving).

  13. Look at those SeaTac numbers. Third most popular station. And some people say airports don’t generate much ridership.

    1. Lots of Link popularity is the low fare cost, compared to other airports. BART and Pearson Express have a steep surcharge, for example.

      The station is successful at utilization – but it’s also and end-of-line station. After Angle Lake opens, it will be interesting to see what station activity is. It could go up or down.

      1. Yep. SFO to downtown San Francisco on BART is $9!!!

        Link to Seattle from SeaTac is one third that price.

        I went to San Francisco a few years back with a bunch of buddies. It was either spend over 50 dollars collectively on a BART ride or take a taxi. We chose the latter.

      2. Angle Lake probably won’t make a huge difference. Federal Way Transit Center, from the few times I have been there, seems pretty busy and RapidRide A is awfully slow for longer distances due to all the local traffic.

      3. I think A-line transfers is generally split between Airport and TIBS. Airport has an advantage because it’s farther down the line, and can potentially give you a few minutes advantage in close transfers, but it’s a much longer walk to the A-line from the airport station than TIBS. Angle lake settles it completely. It’s very close to the S. 200th street A-line stop (even closer than I though it would be), and it’s very quick to get between the stops (there’s not even a mezzanine).

      4. They’ll be some that make this transfer, but people don’t seem to be terribly interested in transferring from the 7 either, though some probably do.

        Once Link gets to Federal Way, things could get much Kotex interesting for far more people.

    2. When I ride to/from SeaTac station, I am pretty much never going to the actual airport; I’m usually transferring to a surface route on Intl Blvd.

    3. Tukwila and SeaTac generate less than 1/6 the ridership of Link (or less than 10,000 a day). The trip from Rainier Beach to SeaTac takes over 1/4 of the service. This mean that while SeaTac generates a fair number of riders, it is still a loser from a cost perspective. Rainier Valley is about the same, and if you leave out Beacon Hill, it is worse.

      To me this says a lot more about how poorly they managed the bus to train transfer at Mount Baker than they did the airport station. 2,200 a day is really bad at a station that connects to a bus that carries over 13,000 a day. Folks just aren’t making that transfer. In general they are sticking with their buses — all the Rainier Valley stops (including Beacon Hill) don’t add up to the ridership of the 7. It barely exceeds the 36.

  14. Elected officials tend to overestimate the importance of airports to transit, maybe because that’s one of the few times they use transit. But since you’ve got it (albeit with a good long walk) so be it. Most of the riders at the airport are not regulars, so it takes a lot of marketing and wayfinding.

    One of the problems at SFO was that the airlines and the airport officials weren’t really supportive of bringing BART into the airport. They insisted that BART charge a surcharge that the airport could use, thus the $9 fare.

    On density–the city of Paris achieves the same density as Manhattan with a 7 story height limit. Of course pretty much the whole city is built out to those 7 stories. But density and height are not the same, especially if you wind up with towers that are billionaires’ second or third or eighth homes.

    1. Why would an airport have a problem with making their city more tourist friendly? And what do you mean “a surcharge that the airport could use”? Does the airport get a portion of the $9 fare?

      1. Airports cost money to operate, so they want people to leave behind as much money as possible.

        I imagine this SFO fee functions a lot like the Portlsnd airport fee that they charge any commercial vehicle. Some years back someone wanted to start a direct Portland Airport shuttle bus, but they couldn’t get it to pencil out as the airport would charge something like $30 per passenger, which is some sort of agreed upon number by the taxi companies and airport limousine services and a privately owned bus would have to pay it too.

        Somehow, they’ve managed to keep public transit services exempt from that here, but stuff like the Hut airport bus (like Bellair Airporter bus from Bellingham in Seattle) is quite expensive thanks to this fee.

      2. The SFO surcharge was created because the project cost went up by hundreds of millions of dollars from the original budget, which had the BART station on the west side of US 101 but still connected by the AirTrain tram. The support for the surcharge also came from cabbies and van services, who didn’t want to lose to much business to BART. One tidbit about the surcharge: airport employees get a transit subsidy which effectively negates the surcharge, meaning that the travelers end up paying it while SFO employees don’t.

      3. I personally think that major airports should simply toll the pick-up/drop-off lanes and not care whether a vehicle is “commercial” or not. Hotel shuttles, private cars, Uber, charter buses, and nearly everybody else would pay the toll, while only transit buses and airport-operated shuttle buses would be exempt. This would effectively function as “congestion pricing” for the pick-up/drop-off area.

        If done right, there would be a free pick-up/drop-off area off-site, with a free, 5-minute shuttle ride to the terminal that would siphon off some of the more price-sensitive drivers. For the rest, some might decide that if they already have to pay $3 to pick up their passenger, in the pick-up line, they may as well pay $1 for 30 minutes of parking in the garage. This would reduce the number of cars that circle around the terminal, waiting for their passenger, further reducing congestion.

        And, of course, if the toll induces some passengers to get dropped off at a Link station closer to home, rather than being driven all the way to the airport, all the better.

      4. Agreed that they should toll the drop off and pick up lanes. This would also free up the ability to eliminate the “cell phone waiting lot,” since you might as well just pay to park, and encourage people to either use transit or pay for a service such as a shared shuttle.

        Unfortunately, at $2.25 per trip fare and a savings of only about a mile, Angle Lake will not reduce many drop off trips directly at the Seatac terminal. Adding a toll would induce people to use the nearest Link Station.

    2. Great read on airport transit: He actually gives Link a shout out for SeaTac station actually “being on the way” rather an a destination … a benefit of the airport being between two cities.

      I think tolling the pick-up, drop-off lanes is a great idea. I’m all for tolling road use whenever possible. Even a symbolic $1 fare per car I think would do a lot toward getting people to consider parking or at least waiting in the cell phone lot to not circle (admittedly I’ve been in the cell phone lot when it is basically at capacity)

      Running an airport is super expensive, and the surcharges are an important part of the revenue stream for the Port of Seattle. Having a toll on all cars, rather than just a surchage for commercial operators, strikes me as more fair. I don’t see why I have to pay a surcharge if an Urber driver in a Prius picks me up, but I don’t when my cousins picks me up.

      I’ve seen several airports have the first 30 minute of parking to be free, to encourage people to just park & walk tot he terminal to pick up or drop people off. Not sure if SEA will have enough parking space in their main garage for that.

      1. The Port had a “first 30 minutes free” parking program for quite some time, but when the garage was reorganized they killed it. The garage (which by some measures is the world’s largest parking structure at 13,000 stalls) makes a HUGE amount of money for the Port – so much so that it is the real reason that Link was moved away from the original plan to have it serve the terminal directly. “Security” post-9/11 wasn’t the real reason, despite public claims to the contrary – note the several US airports with closer rail service…like, um, Portland’s. No, the Port’s parking is a cash cow. That’s also why they built a very expensive new rental car center off-site–it freed up hundreds and hundreds of stalls for public parking.

      2. Portland’s MAX line got to the airport on Sept 10th, 2001 (which did wonders for opening month numbers).

        A huge explosion blocking wall had to be built between the MAX station and the arrivals roadway, since apparently terrorists always use trains but never cars, trucks or buses.

        So, the post 9/11 stuff isn’t quite as sane as you may think it is.

      3. Actually, from the looks of things, it seems the port did, in fact, give up a fair number of premium parking spaces for the current Link station to make room for the walkway to/from the terminal. We should count our blessings that the port was willing to do that – had the port really decided to play hardball, what is actually a reliable 5 minute walk could have been a 10 minute wait for a 5-10 minute ride on a shuttle bus.

        I don’t think the garage has enough capacity for a “first 30 minutes free” program, at least not without drastically increasing the rates for long-term parking to free up space. I think right balance is a $3 toll for each trip through the pick-up/drop-off lanes or $4 to park for up to half an hour in the garage.

        The port should also designate sections of the garage for car-sharing, perhaps charging a $5 fee for each trip beginning or ending at the airport. It wouldn’t take a huge amount of use for the port to make more money per space off car sharing than by people storing their personal car and having it sit there for multiple days. And, in a space-constrained location like the airport, car-sharing could be made even more efficient by stacking the car-sharing vehicles directly behind one another (it doesn’t matter if some of the vehicles are boxed in as long as one of them is accessible at any given time). In the case of Car2Go, there are even more efficiency gains possible by taking advantage of the small vehicle size, as Car2Go-sized parking spots could almost certainly be carved out of small patches of space where a normal-sized parking spot would not quite fit.

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