SounderBruce (Flickr)

Aside from the SE Seattle Metro restructure, the two major service additions in September 2016 were the opening of Angle Lake Station and the addition of the first mid-day Sounder roundtrip. Nearly 4 months after their launch, we wanted to check in on ridership stats for the Angle Lake and Sounder portions.

Sound Transit tells STB that Angle Lake is drawing a weekday average of 2,578 boardings, a Saturday average of 2,174, and a Sunday average of 1,411. Based on August numbers for Link ridership by station, this would place Angle Lake 9th among Link’s 16 stations stations for weekday ridership, slightly higher than Beacon Hill and slightly lower than Tukwila Int’l Blvd.

Angle Lake is naturally dependent on the park & ride commuter market, with little residential/commercial development or bus transfer synergy to induce all day ridership. Sound Transit says that December weekday parking usage ranged from 86-98%. With more than two times the boardings compared to the 1,160 parking spaces, a surprisingly high number of riders seem to be transferring from buses, carpooling, biking, or commuting to Angle Lake for jobs at places like Alaska Airlines.

Sounder

Though Sounder introduced nominal ‘mid-day service’ in September, ridership on the trip pair has been highly asymmetric, with the 10:18am northbound trip (115 boardings per day) having only one-third the ridership of the 2:32pm southbound trip (356 boardings). Given the early schedule of inbound trains from Lakewood and South Tacoma, using Sounder in both directions wasn’t terribly practical before the 2:32pm train was introduced. Now those taking inbound trains in the 4am and 5am hours have a way home by train before 5:30pm. Remember too that the new train uses a smaller 2-car trainset, meaning the afternoon train is packed with 178 riders per car. There is clearly demand for a broader peak period for Sounder.

We’ve requested ridership info on the SE Seattle restructure as well, and will post that when available.

28 Replies to “Angle Lake and Mid-Day Sounder Ridership Stats”

  1. Curious if Angle Lake took pressure off Tukwila Int’l Blvd parking or if it’s still just as packed.

    1. Yes, TIBS is as full as ever. While bus transferring people may be using Angle Lake instead of Seatac or TIBS all the Park and Riders at Angle Lake are new folks.

    2. There was a lot of pent-up demand from south and east and southeast of Angle Lake, and only a fraction of it used TIB (or could fit into it). The rest drove while waiting for the Federal Way extension.

  2. Angle Lake could be worse tbh.

    The municipality and Sound Transit need to work together to help grow that number to the 5k boardings average they are aiming for though.

  3. Would be helpful for ridership and accessibility if Metro provided bus service to/from Angle Lake to the surrounding residential communities to the east and west of the station. Downtown Des Moises, for example, has several large residential developments underway but no transit connection to Link; a mere 2 miles away. The A Line only does so much to get people to/from Angle Lake Station.

    1. Agree wholeheartedly. We’ve made progress on the spine. Now, we need to get people to and from it.

    2. Let’s pull hours from twisty turny 156 route and create a neighborhood route to get people to and from Angle Lake Station EFFICIENTLY.

    3. It’s in the Metro long range plan, but I don’t think there is a big restructure for South King until KDM opens in several years.

      1. When I asked a few years ago when re-routing route 132 to get to the southern portion of Link might happen, one of the service planners told me it wouldn’t happen until after Angle Lake Station opens. That’s an answer that will never become false.

        Anyway, the four nearest apartment complexes southeast of ALS will do no better than walking over to the A Line’s 204th St Station, and then walking to ALS if the A Line isn’t coming in the next 5 minutes.

        A bus that follows 216th St over to the waterfront hits a series of worthy destinations along with the waterfront business district. That sounds like a piece of route 156 to me. But it totally skips ALS under the current zigzag. I say it is time for a restructure in that area. Some hours could also be pulled from route 122, and have another route in the middle portion of route 122 that goes to TIBS.

      2. Brent,

        This is a no-brainer. During the middle of the day it takes well over an hour to go from Des Moines to Seattle, and forces a transfer in Burien. I’m sure there aren’t a large number of people who want to make the trip, but a single coach could run a 30 minute headway shuttle from central Des Moines to Angle Lake and back. Sound Transit could (and should) fund it as a temporary service to improve their relationship with Des Moines.

    4. Even if nothing changes, Des Moines will be get a connection when the 272nd station goes in, via the 166, currently their main all-day route. And I don’t really see where the service hours would come from to add a new east-west route crossing Int’l blvd. Most of the service around here is already skeletal, half-hourly or less.

      But careful how you plan. WSDOT will be bringing a lot of bulldozers into the picture ¼ mile from the station pretty soon, as the highway 509 extension and new southern airport expressway brings a whole bunch of new uncrossable surface freeway to the neighborhood. Something that looks good now might make a whole lot less sense in 2019.

      1. There’s going to be a southern airport expressway, too? I haven’t heard anything about that; do you have any links?

  4. Having a broader Sounder service range is something that’s been needed for a long time. When I used Sounder to connect to a bus to get me to work, the evening connections were difficult to make. (Work till 5 or 6 pm, depending on deadlines, catch a bus downtown that gets caught in traffic, and sometimes miss that last Sounder.) Moreover, people who work downtown sometimes (or often, depending on the person) want to catch a drink or dinner after work, before commuting home to suburbs that just don’t have the same offerings. So having a service range that goes later to connect those commuters, as well as earlier for folks arriving to work very early or heading home to pick up kids, are both necessary. Nice job with the new midday routes. They will grow.

    I am interested to know the impact of business/pleasure travelers between the Holiday Inn & Fairfield Inn and the airport. Are the hotels embracing light rail and offering free passes to lure customers? I am sure that the ridership is currently very small, but it would be nice to see the hospitality industry embrace this station and densify the surrounding neighborhood. Having a hotel option with close proximity to the airport (for folks with late/early flights) and direct access to the airport, downtown, & multiple colleges via light rail would be an asset to the region.

    1. I am unaware of any free downtown shuttles from airport hotels that still exist.

      Some hotels go in on a shuttle that serves a reserved stop in front of the airport terminal. Depending on the driver, it might drop you off on the way back to the hotels, but the station can’t be reached on the way to the terminal.

      Some of the airport hotels (most or maybe even all?) charge for parking overnight. So, the hotels aren’t directly providing bus passes, but they are incentivizing riding transit.

      And most are much cheaper next to the airport than they are downtown.

      That said, I recall hotels farther from transit being even cheaper. Supply and demand, or some such.

    2. I recently visited Portland and purposely stayed at the Motel 6 adjacient to the Max station in Greshman. This option for travellers could prove popular. Stay and Rail.

  5. Zach Could you throw in some FHSC numbers when you do the SE article. I don’t think I’ve ever seen and SDOT ridership numbers on the streetcars since it started.

  6. Just a friendly comment about the Angle Lake being at over double the number of parking spaces. I don’t think it’s “surprisingly high” as you say. Instead, it is what I would expect.

    First, there is probably a decent number of drop-off and pick-up riders. This area has pretty infrequent bus service outside of RapidRide and it’s very close to I-5 and SR 99, which are both pretty fast ways to get from places like Federal Way to the station. If you look at station access data for similar stations (end-of-line; high rail frequency; big parking capacity; near a freeway; serves large areas without frequent bus service) for a system like BART, you will see that drop-off and pick-up is 22% to 30% in similar locations and circumstances. (http://www.bart.gov/about/reports/profile and go to home origin.xls and then the access mode tab)

    Second, not everyone who parks at a station is alone (technically it’s carpooling but it may not be registering that way), and not every parking space is occupied only once a day. Consider that there are some children traveling with parents as well as spouses traveling together, for example. A fully-used parking facility should easily create well over 2 riders per space just by itself.

    1. Do children with families commute *every* day?

      Does a parking garage draw pick-ups and drop-offs?

      1. There are circumstances where a parent will take a child with them on transit every day. Maybe there is day care at work. Maybe there is a relative or other sitter nearby. Maybe the child goes to a private school in Seattle. I’m sure it’s not many, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are adults with children every weekday.

        You do raise a good issue about the parking garage. Maybe there are also carpool or vanpool formations happening there. That’s particularly true if there is a carpool or vanpool to an employer in Auburn or Tacoma or JBLM, for example. It may be the last stop in the morning and first stop in the evening. A Link parking garage gets to do double-duty for carpool and vanpool formations; both riders from Link and nearby residents who drive to the garage can be served.

      2. The station definitely draws pick-ups and drop-offs – in between the garage and the station are several 15 minute parking spots specifically for pick-up/drop-offs, and a nice wide circle for kiss & ride.
        I think being both the end-of-line and very accessible from 99 and I5 helps support lots of drop-off traffic.

        Building I work at in Bellevue as a daycare on the ground floor, and I have a number of coworkers who drive to work with their kiddos. I see no reason why someone wouldn’t do that on Link if it fit their route.

    2. Angle Lake and Tukwila both have a significant amount of evening traffic and many of those people might be using a parking spot that was used earlier in the day. I am seeing this grow over the past few months as more people see this as an option. Mariners season and other summer evening shows are coming and we will see a lot more Kent, Auburn, Fed Way, and even Tacoma people doing this.

      Of course this will go away once Sounder provides a night train south bound. I am hoping for this summer…

      1. I’ve been checking out the capacity of the garage every week or two. Today it was 90% full (half the 6th floor empty) at 12:30PM–the most I’ve seen it full yet mid-day. What I find most curious is that every time I come by, always between 12 and 2 PM, there are many cars coming and going during the brief 5-10 minutes I’m there. About 20 people were on the train I saw depart. I think there is a noticeable turn-over of the parking spaces during the day. I have spoken to several south county folks that are taking Link for afternoon errands and meetings as well as Downtown evenings shows.

    3. Was in Atlanta for the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve, and as I was staying with friends in South Carolina drove to a MARTA station on the north side of town (Lindbergh Center) and parked for the day in the station’s large garage before taking the train downtown. The interesting thing there is that you get 24 hours free parking by validating your time-stamped parking ticket in the station’s paid area when you return. If you don’t use the train but shop or do something else in the area, it acts as a paid parking garage. If you want to stay longer than 24 hours, it’s $8/day. I’m assuming based on that that either the garage never fills up even on weekdays, allowing for multi-day parking, or that Atlanta/MARTA need the revenue stream of people who will pay the $8/day more than they need available (free) spaces for commuters.

      That sort of thing does not seem as though it would work here as the garage will likely be at capacity soon, but on weekends a day rate might be nice for short weekend trips out of Sea-Tac. (I do believe there should be a minimal charge to park at stations anyway, for demand management if nothing else.)

      I’d happily pay $8/day to park at Angle Lake when I have weekend trips (and the garage is mostly empty)–even with late flight arrivals you at least have bus service if Link has shut down for the night, so you don’t have to just eliminate transit in general from your trip planning.

  7. The explosion of housing prices in Seattle has done me a lot of damage in the three years since it forced me out of my home of thirty years in Ballard. For a year or so, transit was good enough that for me, Olympia was pretty much a neighborhood of Seattle. Where I still had contacts and activities.

    Olympia Intercity Transit connections via Tacoma worked comfortably both directions. But now, traffic gets so ugly so early by bus or car, if I’m not out of Olympia before 6 am, I have to risk my former last-train Sounder connection in Tacoma.

    From Tacoma can still go ST 574 to Sea-Tac and LINK- which though slower I’m now starting to prefer because 594 spends so much time stuck in I-5 traffic. Sounder does its best, but I often have early non-negotiable appointments.

    So present arrangment is ST 592 leaving Olympia 5:42 am- monthly parking at transit center- with Lakewood transfer to Sounder at 6:46. The 592 out of SR 512 Park and Ride misses Tacoma, though not I-5 traffic- and a two hour no-break ride to Seattle.

    Or ST 574 to Airport to LINK. Incidentally, word to Sound Transit: At SR 512, IT 600-series generally misses 574 connection by a minute. Meaning Airport trip means a half hour wait at 574 next stop,Tacoma Dome. For awhile, agencies coordinated that connection. Now- reliable connection to the Airport might help ridership. And my blood pressure.

    But any morning deadline, and absolutely any chance I’ll have to be in Seattle after 5 or so, two choices. Drive back way to Tacoma Dome parking. Or Tacoma coffee stop, midway in two hour arterial ride to Angle Lake. Meaning another hour one-way “freeway-free” arterial drive through Fife area, Redondo Beach, and Des Moines to Angle Lake.

    Pretty traffic-free drive- but hundred mile round trip by car depreciates me faster than my car. Last trip, BTW, transferred from 574 to A-line at Federal Way Transit Center. Saves no time- and southbound, risks half hour wait for SB 574.

    Important point here. “In love with their cars?” I like my car as a vehicle, and country driving is my only recreation. But choice here is a matter of pure animal hate: being trapped, bus or car, no coffee or bathroom, late for something important, at the mercy of the worst gridlocking motorized idiot in the region. Fish truck and all. I’ll drive twenty extra country miles at 30 mph to stay out of a half mile at .5 mph. Or less.

    Also car-related: when above distance and dark forbid trip home, 24 hour parking at Tacoma Dome and Angle Lake so much appreciated I’ll pay ten dollars for half that time. Though would rather park free at home. Ok. fifteen.

    So next-step fix my-way? Extend 574 to Olympia (leaving before 6AM). And route it up SR518 instead of crawl from I-5 via 188th and SR99 traffic jam. While we’re arranging parking for Sounded south terminal at Lacey, 20 minute bus ride from Olympia.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Lower inbound ridership on Sounder may have to do with the fact that it is going to be impossible to find parking at any of the stations by the time that train leaves. That’s fine but it’s going to significantly reduce your riders to those who can get there via other means. Also consider that many buses are no longer on a “peak” schedule by then so feeder service is far from ideal by that point.

    For those coming home from one of the super early trains (at least those who drive) that is not the case.

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